Disclaimer: This is JKR's.
AN: Please, for the love of God, go to the blog for this fanfic. It explains so much. (thethirdpottergeneration on tumblr!)
Denouement & Epilogue
(for SC and MS, even though this wasn't his fandom)
"Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love." — William Shakespeare
There was a full enquiry, as there always would have been for something of this degree. Entire flocks of Ministry personnel searched the grounds, and those most adept in the study of Acromantula did their best to find exactly what reason—if any—the beasts would have had to lead an attack on the school.
There was lots of repair-work to be done, and the students weren't allowed to return, so in most cases, classes were suspended. Were it any other year, there would have been almost two months left of school, but in this particular situation, it seemed more likely that, should the students return at all, it would only be for half that time. Those who had OWLs and NEWTs to study for were having occasional meetings that came very close to turning to real classes. There had been conference rooms in some Ministry departments allotted to those who wanted to revise.
For all the people who had died in the battle, there were funerals and services held. Bridget Davies had something of a small memorial, with her closest family and friends present, and very few others. Almost everyone at the event was in tears. Two days later, the wizard community of Dublin held a service for Lottie Flanagan, which was melancholy but filled with music. There were other funerals organized, like the one for Misty Mumps, but none of them had quite the weight that Adrian Bell's did.
Perhaps it was because he had had friends, and family, and colleagues, and students, and the largest network of anyone else who had died. Whatever the reason, it was a sad, empty occasion.
James went, because his family did, and he watched his father place an arm around Adrian's aunt, and he watched Ezra Meadowes stand up and give a speech about being one of Adrian's best friends at Hogwarts, and he watched this especially because he had been on a Quidditch team with both of them; and he watched Cordelia, who was sitting two rows ahead, alongside Scorpius Malfoy and his girlfriend Patricia, and then he didn't, because he didn't particularly enjoy pining over nothing in particular.
After the service was over, and the clock had struck six o'clock in the evening, they all filed out of the building. Some chose to Disapparate, but Cordelia did not, so James hung back.
She was wearing black, like everyone else, but the dress was slim-fitting without being inappropriate. It fell slightly below her knees, and it was sleeveless, which left her a bit chilly in the evening wind. She breathed out as James approached her; it was this advance that prompted the burly McKinnon bloke she had been conversing with to make a speedy getaway.
'So,' said James casually, somehow managing to slide his hands into the pockets of his trousers without scuffing up his suit jacket.
Cordelia turned to him. 'So.'
He half-smiled, but this faded quickly. 'Didn't your parents come?'
She shrugged. 'They were going to, but then Mum decided it might be a bit hard on Mitch. We—we went to Bridget's... he didn't enjoy it.'
'Don't misconstrue this,' said James after a moment, 'I'm just being decent; you look freezing.'
He then slid an arm around her shoulders, which were cold, and gave her a comforting squeeze. From what he could see of her, she smiled.
'It doesn't feel like a week,' James decided. 'But I can't tell if that's because it feels like the whole thing happened yesterday, or an incredibly long time ago.'
'What's important is that it happened,' said Cordelia, leaning unconsciously into James's shoulder.
The sun was setting, and if the sky could be compared to anything, it was a menagerie, filled with reds and golds and oranges, tinted with pink, violet, even yellow. From any other perspective, the scene unfolding would have been quite picturesque.
And, for the most part, it was; because the conversation between James and Cordelia continued for the better part of half an hour, after which they both departed for home. Neither mentioned that it was the first time they'd spoken since the castle, and that both were properly single, and James didn't offer to accompany her home to see if she arrived all right, but perhaps the avoidance of these three topics was for the best. There were much greater things to be focusing on.
'Article says they're not sure why the Acromantula colony decided to up and attack,' Fred told Barbara, dropping a copy of the Daily Prophet on the kitchen table as his fiancée began to have at her scrambled eggs. He fetched a glass from the cupboard and left it to fill itself up with orange juice as he took the seat to Barbara's immediate right. 'Something about hostility and biding their time, being tired of having to abstain from human flesh—you know, all that touchy-feely stuff that makes you want to advocate their cause.'
She chuckled, setting down her fork. 'What befuddles me, though, is the fact that they made it sound like Hogwarts was covering things up. People were injured, yeah, but the point of magic is that you're cured almost instantaneously. Plus,' with a sigh, and a flick aimed at her fork, 'the opponent didn't really allow for otherwise. When those things are concerned, there's no degree of damage. You're dead. That's it.'
Fred sighed, sipping at the orange juice that he had plucked from the air as Barbara spoke. 'The media was always going to skew it. I mean, it's all rubbish really, but you know, they'll do with information what they like.'
'Merlin,' Barbara muttered, 'I don't know why they didn't just have Cordelia write it. She was actually there, and she's doing anything else they ask for these days, anyway.'
'How's that stuff going?' Fred asked, capitalizing on the situation. 'You know, ton of seventeen-year-olds dawdling around the Ministry, getting "early practice in their field or whatever".'
A few Ministry departments or other companies—Prophet included—had offered to take on students in order to give them work experience while they were out of school. Of course, most of said students had taken up the occupation of "layabout", at the Department of "their own bloody house, you prick", but certain ones had taken the opportunity and run with it.
'Al's not "dawdling",' Barbara pointed out, 'and he's doing fine.'
Fred shrugged, draining the glass. 'He's clerking in the Auror Office—you get what I mean. They're spending half their time having those lessons-but-not-lessons things—it's good to be introducing them to the real world early, if that makes any sense. Merlin knows it screwed us over.'
'Sometimes I wonder if this is the real world at all,' his fiancée mused, pointing her wand at the empty dish in front of her, which began to make its way to the sink to be washed. 'Look, it's almost eight, I'd best be off.'
A peck on the lips was exchanged, and then Miss Tennant went off to get dressed for work.
'I usually avoid the cufflinks,' said Scorpius Malfoy, fiddling with the accessories as he examined himself in the full-length mirror that had been hung on the bedroom wall. Albus, the resident of the house and primary inhabitant of said bedroom, did not look up. This didn't concern his best friend. 'Don't you think they make me look like a prat?'
Lily, who was on her way downstairs with a basket of Gryffindor robes, stopped outside the door, which was open. She took one quick look at Scorpius, using the mirror to do so, rather than looking at the Head Boy himself, then furrowed her eyebrows. 'I don't know. You look pretty dashing to me.'
Scorpius's eyes widened infinitesimally, and Albus's narrowed just as much, but the latter's attention wasn't really focused on the conversation; rather, he concentrated on a letter from his girlfriend that had arrived seven minutes prior.
None of this mattered much to Lily: she was gone in one great swish of red hair, disappearing down the stairs to the laundry. Scorpius removed the cufflinks, then turned to Albus.
'I thought you said no one was home.'
'Well, no one important. I wasn't planning on Lily's presence, but she won't bother us much. I thought you two were mates.'
'We—we are,' said Scorpius. He was unsure as to why his throat had caught slightly but was eager to move on from it. 'Just thought you would've mentioned that your sister was home while I undressed in front of an open door.'
'Scorpius,' Albus told him flatly, 'you've got no shame otherwise; you've been practically down to your pants in the Room of Requirement.'
'That was different!'
'Honestly. You'd think my sister had some kind of disease.'
She does, thought Scorpius. It's called "hot". What? No —you don't... you really don't! It's... she's a kid. And you're taken! Happy, too! Happy!
'Close the door if it's going to bother you!' Al continued. 'I mean, all I know is that you asked me to help you pick out a suit for some swanky function at your aunt's, and I'm doing that, and now you're being odd, so...'
'Nah,' Scorpius batted off. 'Nah, it's nothing. Thanks for the—'
'—on second thought,' came Lily's voice again, without so much as a glance inside the room, 'don't wear the cufflinks.' She was past the door now. 'You'll seem pretentious.'
Albus looked at him pointedly, and Scorpius was about to shrug when Lily backpedaled into view. 'Cufflinks are for the anti-casual, and those above the age of forty-three. You're neither of those things.'
'And how would you know that?'
Lily raised her eyebrows critically, and spoke with the tone of someone who thought themselves conversing with an idiot. 'I'm pretty sure you're not forty-three.'
He smirked. 'Anti-casual, though—why're you so sure?'
'You smile too much. You're too "cool" for it all to be orchestration. Unless it is, in which case you're pathetic.'
'I'm not pathetic, am I, Al?'
Albus looked surprised. 'Oh, remembered me, have you?'
Scorpius glared at him, and Lily poked her tongue out before leaving once again. The former checked his watch. 'Oh—shit, is that the time? Thanks for the help, Al. I'm off to see Patricia—she's wanting help with Potions.'
Albus shrugged. 'Alright. See you tomorrow, mate. Oh—wait!' he said quickly, attention averted from the letter. 'D'you know if Cordelia's going to the revision session tomorrow?'
'Mum's got someone on maternity leave; she wanted to see if Cordelia was interested in taking over the Wasps-Tornadoes article for Thursday's match.' He paused. 'I mean, I could owl her, but—'
'—I'm pretty sure she'll be there. She's been at all of them, hasn't she?'
Albus acknowledged this. 'Right, yeah. You go help your girlfriend; tell her the Potters kept you.'
'Well, Lily had a hand in it.'
Scorpius rolled his eyes. 'Bye, Al.'
Rose Weasley stretched out over the faded red paisley couch of her boyfriend's Camden flat. The living-cum-kitchen-cum-dining area was surprisingly clean for a place housing one (sometimes two, depending on how drunk Nicholas Ashwood got at the pub around the corner) nineteen-year-old boy, and very little else. There was a massive bookcase lined up against one wall, and it seemed as though said bookcase had become something of a home for music as well, for there were several albums lying around from different wizard bands.
Will came in, Drying Charm taking effect on his hair, newly dressed from the shower he had just been taking while Rose lazed around in the other room.
'I like your hair like that,' she said.
Rose laughed. 'Makes you look cool.'
'I'm not cool?'
She moved from her place on the couch and folded her arms as she paced around the room's free space. '"Rose Weasley's Formally Clothed Nineteen-Year-Old Ministry Boyfriend"? Oh, you're the definition of it.'
Will raised his eyebrows. 'That's my moniker? Wow, I'm insulted.' He shook his head slightly, proceeding into the miniscule kitchen area. 'Guess I'm going to have to start telling my mates to refer to you as "Will Bowen's Skirt-Wearing Eighteen-Year-Old Hogwarts Girlfriend", then.'
'I don't wear skirts all the time!'
'Just ninety-six percent.' Will leaned against the kitchen bench. Rose began to make her way towards him, smile on her face. 'You like them.'
'You like them.'
'Well, I won't attest to that. But I'm not what's important right now.'
She reached him, and stood quite close, so that they could have had the entire conversation whispering and still be heard just because of their proximity. 'You're always important.'
'More important than what you want for dinner?'
Rose thought about it. 'I do want dinner quite a lot...'
'That's what I thought!' With a grin: 'so, what're we having, Ginger?'
'You're expecting me to cook?'
'No, of course not. I probably should have said "what do you want to watch your boyfriend suffer through making so that I can nourish you in the best way possible", because that would've been more accurate.'
'I don't mind,' said Rose quite truthfully, 'as long as I'm with you.'
'That was cheesy.'
'I am very cheesy.'
This made Rose laugh, and made Will smile because she had done so. He whirled around quickly, taking her by surprise. 'What do you want, then? Hurry up; I can't deliver you home starving.'
Epilogue: Everything Else
The entire Tennant-Weasley Wedding was beautiful; it managed to be lavish and intimate at the same time, and there was lots of smiling done by lots of people. Roxanne was a bridesmaid, as was Cordelia, and one of Barbara's older Muggle cousins. Molly the Younger was the maid of honour, if such a thing were required. Fred had James and Felix as groomsmen, because James was his best friend and Felix made him look tall. They were very much in love, Barbara and Fred, and the ceremony could not have been any more perfectly suited.
It was nowhere near as fancy or French as Victoire and Teddy's wedding, but Fred's grandparents had still insisted upon the wedding being at the Burrow (Molly Weasley I may have been an aging witch, but she was tough as nails despite), and so there had been many things to do beforehand like de-gnoming the garden and making sure everything fit correctly.
Andy was invited, because she was Albus's date, and they spent most of the time apart, for the latter was engaged in various conversations with relatives and important people who sought to make sure he was doing just as much with his life as everyone else had been.
'Well, to be completely honest, it's a bit strange to have left school,' he told Zerubbabel Wembley, 'I start Auror Training in a couple of months, so there's a lot to do in preparation for that.'
Zerubbabel—elderly and slightly snobbish—sniffed. With a wry smile, he said, 'it's quite funny, you know, to be here celebrating two young people getting married. They are so very young. Nineteen, is it?'
Albus, whose eyebrows were raised, said, 'yes, that's it. Nineteen.'
'And are you seeing anyone?' Zerubbabel asked, probably in a tone that he thought was joking. 'Because at your age you could be next down the aisle, boy, judging by the state of this affair!'
He laughed deeply, and Albus fought to keep from rolling his eyes. 'Yes, I have a girlfriend.' He looked around for Andy, and spotted her next to the drinks, deep in conversation with Cordelia, who was one of the only people at the service that the ex-Hufflepuff knew. 'She's over there, the one in blue?'
'The pretty one?' asked Zerubbabel.
'I tend to think so.'
'Good job, my dear boy!' the old man clapped him over the back with surprising force. 'Say, isn't she the one who was friendly with your brother a while back? I don't know if I'd trust that—just climbing through Potters, isn't she?'
'What?' asked Albus. 'No—no!' (He realized the bridesmaids' dresses were also blue, just a slightly different shade.) 'Not Cordelia —the one beside her. That's my girlfriend.'
'Ah,' said Zerubbabel, sniffing again. 'And what's she doing for a job now? Something liberal, I suppose.'
Albus, not a fan of his tone, said, 'she's working at the Leaky Cauldron. She's going to bake cakes, though—probably open up a shop for them one day.'
'Ah, so she's a barmaid.'
The eighteen-year-old did not smile. 'I think I've just seen my mother. I'll go have a word with her now.'
'Oh, Barbs, you look gorgeous!'
The bride blushed. 'Thank you,' she said initially; then added, 'sorry I haven't spoken to you sooner—everyone's been wanting to speak to me. Thanks for doing all of this... and with your baby on the way —where's the lovely little guy now?'
Victoire smiled. 'Teddy's got him. He's having a bit of a play with the fact that he's'—this being the baby—'slightly metamorphic.' She laughed. 'I think he likes being ginger, though. Teddy's always done the "blue" thing.'
'Oh, but you've always loved the blue thing, haven't you?'
Teddy ran up to them then; the baby's hair was bright red, and his father's was the usual turquoise. He sandwiched Victoire between the two of them and said to Barbara loudly, 'look, Barbs, we're the primary colours!'
'I expected you to like it a bit more. Was I wrong?'
'No,' said Scorpius, shaking his head, though his words were obviously in vast contrast to what he was actually thinking, 'I just... it's not like you.'
Patricia shrugged. 'We've left Hogwarts, I just thought it was time for a change. My job's been taking off—Tumbleweed's had some really big performances—you know that. I just... I wanted something to commemorate it. Honestly, you're looking at me like I've chopped it all off.'
She moved towards the mirror above her bedside table and began to fluff through the hair that had caused this debacle. She hadn't told Scorpius that she was going to get it cut; now what was formerly long, chestnut brown hair had been drastically shortened, to a layered not-as-short pixie-cut, with highlights at the ends. It wasn't incredibly radical, and Patricia herself quite liked it, so she couldn't see what the fuss was, and why her boyfriend didn't.
'I know,' said Scorpius. 'Sorry, it's just a big change. I was going to ask if you wanted to go up to Inverness this weekend. Dad's mate has a house there, it's nice enough. Not as homely as the Broxburn one, but that's surrounded by Muggles. Anyway—Inverness?'
He cut off, watching as Patricia hurried out onto the balcony, where there was an owl waiting for her. She took the message tied around its leg, then turned back to Scorpius without opening the letter.
'Inverness?' she repeated. 'This weekend?' Her face fell, and she looked genuinely upset. 'I can't. It sounds inviting, certainly, but this weekend the boys have a gig in Cardiff. They can't go without a manager. And I'm working Flourish & Blott's on Sunday; I can't get out of another shift, else they'll fire me.'
Scorpius frowned at her, but then exchanged it for a smile. 'Look,' he said, pulling her in close, 'I'm proud of you. You have three jobs—you're a band manager, and you work in a bookshop, and you've taken a couple of shifts at the Leaky Cauldron, and you're actually earning a lot more than I am... but I—I just—we never see each other, Trish. Never.'
'We're seeing each other now,' she insisted. 'And you're not earning anything, unless it's a slap.'
'Well, not yet,' said Scorpius, 'but I'm the humanitarian that the future needs. Come on—would you rather I was stuck in a cubicle job doing nothing all day? I'm not my dad.'
'I'm not telling you to be.' Patricia shrugged him off and moved back into the house, where she Summoned her coat. 'You'll figure something out; you were Head Boy, for crying out loud. Os in everything.' She kissed him quickly. 'I'll be back later.'
'Where are you going?'
'The boys need me.'
'I need you.'
'Stop being stupid. I'll be out for dinner, so don't wait.'
Scorpius sighed as his girlfriend Disapparated. 'Of course not.'
Hugo Weasley was a sixth-year, a prefect, and as of the evening of December 9th, standing outside the entrance to Ravenclaw tower with Gabbie Sterling.
'Merlin, it feels strange to be back here, even after months.'
Hugo nodded. 'I hate it—don't you?'
'I'm having trouble sleeping.'
The painfully bright snow had illuminated their conversation, despite how late at night it was occurring. If anything, this made their location even more strange, for they were really not meant to be out of bed. (However, Hugo was one of the prefects on patrol, and Gabbie was simply standing outside her common room door, so Filch wouldn't have caught them.)
'It's okay. So am I.' Hugo would an arm around her, almost to prove the point. But then he made it clear that he hadn't inherited all of his mother's wit, because instead of saying something incredibly charming, he said: 'Matthew Leighton still talks about you.'
Thankfully, Gabbie shrugged this off. 'He and I wouldn't have really worked out, I don't think.'
'I've just... I've got myself to worry about, and I'm pretty much content with where my life is right now, and I know that seems absurd coming from a fifteen-year-old, but I don't really need someone to love me in order to be happy. I already have me.'
'And you've got me.'
'Yeah, exactly—and you're a great mate. Don't know what I'd do without you.'
'Probably survive just fine.'
'Fred Boat'd get awfully lonely.'
'I won't leave, then. I promise.'
'Tumbleweed hasn't got a "Holly Jolly Christmas" gig, have they?'
Patricia rolled her eyes, smacking Scorpius with the back of her hand. 'No, they haven't. No need to sound so bitter.'
'I'm not bitter, per se.'
Albus, who sat on the floor of the lounge, enjoying the heat that the air from the fire was giving the couch, gave a disparaging noise. Scorpius turned to him, eyes questioning.
'Sorry, mate,' the former said. 'But I think you have been a tiny bit sour about the whole thing.'
'What—and you're not upset that you see Andy all of twice a week? I see her more than you do, down at the Leaky Cauldron.'
Albus shrugged. 'I send her owls if I'm feeling hopeless and that my future as an AT just did a bunk, and she'll come and see me, but it's not as though we were always going to live the same life, seeing each other seven days a week and all that.'
'But it's almost Christmas,' said Patricia with a slight frown, 'aren't you going to see her then?'
'Yeah, of course—we're going out for the afternoon, after all the festivities at the Burrow and stuff have calmed down. Her nan was going to visit the family in Manchester, and she's really looking forward to that. Apparently, the woman's a b—'
'—"bit senile, but taught Andy how to bake so she loves her despite"?'
Albus's smile faltered. 'That's practically word-for-word from the letter she sent me.'
'And the letter she sent me,' said Patricia.
Scorpius smirked. 'Who's "bitter" now, Potter?'
Patricia raised her eyebrows. 'Albus didn't have a fit when his girlfriend got a haircut, though.'
'That was months ago!'
'That was two months ago.'
'Well, it's not exactly my fault I've got more on my mind than counting the days since my girlfriend got a trim—hello, changing the magical world?'
'Not changing it yet,' muttered Patricia.
'These things take time!' he insisted. 'Why do you hate me so much these days? Merlin, it's like we leave school and everyone decides I'm a doormat—Dylan McCormick, I could do without—that bloke had a lot of issues and it seemed I was his self-help, which should have been flattering but it wouldn't have taken a genius to send Higgs some flowers, really; but you guys? You guys wanting to get rid of me? Thanks. I'm feeling real appreciated.'
Albus stared at him. 'We're not getting rid of you, mate.'
'Yeah!' said Patricia. 'I mean, I know you annoy the crap out of me, and vice versa, but my life without you would be less hilarious. And less like a fashion magazine.'
'So I dress well!'
'Don't be too pleased with yourself.'
Christmas Eve meant the Ministry was buzzing. Everyone should have been home, technically speaking, but the Prophet had no time for that. Compiling the Yuletide articles, excluding the ones about Dirigible Plums having exfoliating properties, and everything else that needed to be done had every department on the move.
And, as usual when it comes to stress, Cordelia Gilbert was right in the thick of it. She was young, and probably underpaid for the amount of work she did, and she was the only Quidditch correspondent who didn't head the department or go on maternity leave every year and a half, so there was lots that people needed for her. But that's what she liked. Working hard merited results, results that meant her name was out there and people were reading what she had to say.
There wasn't much to write about, when given a Quidditch game, because there was really just the score, statistics, and a bit about whichever player was in prominence that particular week, but it was something. A couple of other articles of hers had been submitted, but her sole department remained that of Quidditch correspondence.
She liked her job. She liked the nature of it, that so much of it was really just her, alone with words, but she also liked that Ginny Potter ignored any relationship there had previously been with her family, except for occasionally mentioning something Albus wanted relayed. James had been into the office a couple of times, but they hadn't spoken too much.
In fact, Cordelia and James hadn't spoken for any length of time since Adrian Bell's funeral. There was the occasional interview, for Quidditch stuff, but at best, they were distant friends. She was liking it that way.
It was Crosby Figgins, a forty-ish chap whose sandy hair was greying and not-much. In his hands he clutched the first edition of the next morning's Prophet, hot off the press. 'Could you open the door for me, Gilbert? I need this approved by Mrs. Potter; there's a good girl.'
Cordelia, much taller than Crosby Figgins, hurried over to the door of Ginny's office, knocked twice, then held it open for the man and the manuscript.
The Beatles was playing, which was no surprise. It was one of those things that Witch Weekly had put in their "Little James Potter Things — What We Love About The Youngest Player On The Montrose Magpies!" article about three months back, along with the fact he was bright, wanted to play internationally for England before he was thirty, and wasn't ashamed about wearing a Weasley jumper.
But everyone at this particular Christmas party was enjoying themselves. Dominique, fresh back from France, was chatting to Gus and Alice Longbottom about French botany; Barbara and Fred were dancing and shouting along to the currently-playing Here Comes The Sun, and when James entered the room after having a word with his dad in the kitchen (as the man had just popped in to say "hello"), Fred sang to Barbara, 'here comes the son,' which sent them both reeling.
Albus nudged his brother. 'I feel bad—Mum's at work having to organize the part of the newspaper that features you and we're here having a party.'
'Well, don't feel too bad. Like you said, Mum's organizing the part with me in it.' With a grin, James made to depart, but then pulled back. 'Wait... is the whole department there?'
Albus raised his eyebrows and gave an expression that said "I know where this is going, don't I?". 'I... I don't know. I should think so. Why, thinking of stealing a sprig of mistletoe and making a trip over there yourself?'
James scoffed. 'No, I'm busy enough making sure people don't trash Grimmauld Place. But speaking of mistletoe...' He took out his wand and pointed it at all the doorways he could see, atop the thresholds of which mistletoe appeared. 'There we go. Thanks for reminding me. Wait, speaking of mistletoe, where's Andy?'
'Oh, she's around here somewhere. Pembridge had her, last I remember.'
'Oh—I haven't seen Liz in ages! I'll go and find her; always was laugh, Liz.'
Lily Potter examined herself in the mirror. Nothing had changed since she looked in this mirror at the end of August. She still had the same splash of freckles across her cheeks, the same tough brown eyes; her face wasn't any thinner, and her cheekbones hadn't grown "more defined". Her hair was longer, but that was about it for change.
She was freshly dressed from the shower, thus the red mass of hair was still wet, and there was no one she cared too much to impress at her house that Sunday morning, because James had left home and her parents had gone to something at the Thomas household that both Lily and Al had elected to pass on attending, so instead of using a Drying Charm, she just tied it up damp.
'Lily!' came Albus's voice from downstairs.
'What?!' she called back, hoping he had heard her (this family could be so deaf).
'D'you want a butterbeer?'
Lily made a face on her way down the stairs, though Al could not see her. 'It's ten thirty in the morning, why would I—?' She stopped short upon reaching the bottom of the stairs and realizing they had company. The Scorpius Malfoy kind, to be exact. 'Hi.'
Scorpius gave an eyebrow nod. 'Didn't stay at Hogwarts for Christmas, then?'
'Evidently not.' She took the butterbeer Al was offering, even though she didn't expressly understand the need for it. 'But what brings you here? You know, on a Sunday?'
Scorpius shrugged. 'Same thing that'd bring me here any other day of the week.' He gestured to Al with the bottom of his butterbeer bottle. 'That beautiful brother of yours. Can't get enough.'
'I think you're in love,' Lily joked.
'He did kiss me,' said Albus.
Scorpius rolled his eyes and said exasperatedly, 'we were going to die! Can't anyone let that go?!'
'An entire year,' Andy said, in such a tone that led her boyfriend to infer the girl hadn't really thought of it before now. 'We've been together a year.'
Albus wound an arm around her, planting a kiss on her forehead. 'It's been an odd year.'
They kissed then, properly.
'You're training to be an Auror now,' Andy told him, with the same profound tone.
'And you're a baking barmaid.'
'Not ashamed of me, are you?'
'Good.' There was a pause. 'Because I have something to tell you.'
'Sennen and I are opening a shop. In Bristol. It'll have Muggle music and lots of cakes and she's going to write a book about it—she told me. She loves to write—did you know?'
Albus was still blinking at the first two sentences. 'B-Bristol? You won't even be coming to... to London, anymore?'
Andy raised her eyebrows. 'That's not exactly the reaction I wanted.'
'No! No, I'm happy for you—I honestly am!' He hugged her. 'I mean, that's great; you're getting a shop! But London's where the Ministry is, and that was why you working at the Leaky Cauldron was so good, because I could see you as soon as I was done with my day... but if I'm having to go to Manchester, to Bristol...'
Albus shook it off. 'No, I'm being daft. You should follow your dream, and whatnot.' He chuckled. 'You and Sennen, baking cakes and listening to Muggle music all day. Recipe for success.'
'I'm loving that pun.'
Patricia sipped at the cup of coffee in front of her, wishing it was something stronger. She'd never dreamed a conversation like this would come, not with him —not with Scorpius.
It was a miracle to think they lived together, really. Because she usually got in so late he was asleep, and the sleepy hours of the morning were the only times they were ever truly alone together. He was visiting his parents a lot, and Al.
Thankfully, this time, he arrived on schedule. He hurried into the small Camden café, pecked Patricia on the lips, then took the seat opposite her.
'Thanks for taking some time out of your busy schedule to see me,' he said jokingly.
'I know you're kidding but I was really hoping this wouldn't start on that note.'
'Sorry for ruining lunch, then. I can leave and walk in again, if you like.'
She shook her head, taking another sip of the coffee. She didn't want this to go downhill before it had to. 'How long have we been together, Scorp?'
He thought about it for a moment. 'Around two years... and four months?'
Patricia bit her lip.
'Why?' asked Scorpius. 'Are you okay? Is there something wrong?'
She exhaled slowly. 'I... I don't want to get married... at twenty-five.'
Scorpius looked at her with those grey-green eyes, the kind she'd grown accustomed to seeing almost every day since she was nine. But he didn't look betrayed, which was what she'd been afraid of. For the first time, she couldn't quite tell what he looked like.
'Trish, you're my best friend,' he said.
She nodded. 'Exactly. We're best friends.' She forgot the coffee altogether. 'Scorpius, I love you, but I'm not... in love with you.'
He raised his eyebrows. 'Am I about to get the whole "it's not you, it's me" thing? Because that's all a crock of—'
'No, no, no,' she smiled. 'It's not you. And it's not me—not really. It's just... we're not the same people we were two years and four months ago, are we?'
'No, I guess not. I mean, I'm doing a bit of bar work and probably going to cave into my dad's persuasion sometime soon, go work at the Ministry... and you—you're doing well for yourself, doing what you love!'
'Exactly,' she said. 'We're so different than we were even eight months ago. I look pretty much completely different, and I know you don't like it, but I like it. I like who I am. And I want you to like who you are, and to not be wasting your time on someone who doesn't appreciate you, or have time for you.'
'That's a clever line.'
'That's the truth, Scorpius. You're always the one with the clever lines.'
'I am pretty clever.'
'And that's why you should be with someone who loves you; who isn't afraid to call you out on your shit, who calls you an idiot, who wants to change the world with you!' She shook her head, and ran a hand through her hair.
Patricia looked him in the eyes. 'I was never that girl; I've never been one of those people who had to save people. I'm happy with working backstage with a band, and doing a couple of shifts in a bookshop—I'm content with that life, and you're not.'
'Stop trying to tell me what I am,' he protested, shaking his head.
'But I'm right, aren't I?'
'I wanted so badly to love you,' he said quickly, 'and love your haircut, but I loved the girl with the long brown hair—who walked lightly—who depended on me —who was going to marry me at twenty-five because she didn't think she was making practical life choices—now, look how that turned out! And there was some secret, selfish part of me that wanted to be the successful one, but that's nothing now, is it? Now that we're out of school.'
He shook his head again. 'I told myself I loved you, but it was hurting to see that you didn't have time for me anymore. You were off doing things with your life that didn't involve me. Your life doesn't really involve me now, does it?'
'You're still my best friend,' she insisted.
'And you're still mine, but...'
'But I don't think we're like that.'
'But we probably shouldn't be a thing.'
Scorpius and Patricia looked at each other. The café now seemed loud, crowded; the coffee had gone cold. The lighting seemed darker, but somehow brighter, too.
'So, we just broke up?' asked Patricia.
'I think that is what just happened.'
They were quiet a moment.
'Do you want me to move out?' she asked.
'Do you want to go?'
'I think I should.'
'Just if you want.'
'So, twenty, huh?' she asked. She was very pretty, but it was clear that she didn't really care much about whether or not he perceived her to be so. She had her arms folded as she approached him, and they remained crossed as their conversation continued. 'D'you feel old?'
'That depends,' said James, grinning. 'Will this be published?'
'I'm not a gossip journalist,' she replied.
'Had enough of those, have you?'
'Enough for a lifetime.'
James smiled. 'Does eighteen feel old?'
'Not when I'm talking to you,' Cordelia said, putting her hands in the pockets of her cardigan.
'How's the family?'
She shrugged. 'How's yours?'
'I thought you weren't a gossip journalist.'
Cordelia raised her eyebrows. 'I can't ask if your family's all right?'
'My mum sees you every week,' said James. 'If we weren't okay, you'd know.'
The party continued around them, but no one made any move to distract either person from the conversation. Cordelia looked away, around the living room, not searching for someone precisely, but more surveying.
So, James being James, asked, 'seen Corner recently?'
Attention regained: 'Which one?'
'You know which one.'
'Not once,' she told him truthfully. She'd been much too busy with other things to even think about Kevin more than in passing. 'I left Hogwarts almost a year ago; do you still talk to your exes?'
James looked at her.
'This doesn't count. We haven't spoken in months.'
'I still think it counts.'
'I meant the Emmy Brand, Tracey McLaggen ones.'
'Gossip journalist,' he sang.
'Whoa—how busy are you?' Albus laughed, surprised at the hustle and bustle of the bakeshop, and Andy and Sennen behind the counter both chuckled at this.
Andy hurried over to allow Albus through to the back area, where they had, to the right, their kitchen, and straight ahead, their miniscule office area in which Sennen did a lot of writing and things that were necessary to Muggle shop-running. 'Who knew Bristol loved baking?'
Sennen gasped. 'That should be a thing! Like, that should totally be a thing! We could put it on t-shirts—Bristol Loves Baking!'
She laughed about this revelation with a woman over the counter who had just placed an order for two batches of red velvet cupcakes and promised that they would be ready within the hour. 'Andy, do you mind getting on that now?'
'Two batches, red velvet?'
'Yeah—make sure you're not too distracted by your superstar boyfriend.'
Albus bowed. 'I promise I'll be good.'
'Why does it feel weird to see you cradling a ginger?' Hugo asked, eyes on James as he entered the room.
Barbara and Fred were over by the window, entertaining a few members of Barbara's Muggle family, and Aunt Ginny was making strained conversation with Barbara's mother, Cho, in the opposite corner. The "ginger" James was cradling was one of Fred's, only a week old; Roxanne had the other successfully nursed to sleep (a feat in itself), but James's companion cooed—he seemed rather taken with his godfather—as the dark-haired Potter took a seat beside Hugo.
'I don't know—I'm already an anomaly in this family; least Fred and Barbs could've done was make a pair that had dark hair.'
'I don't even get it,' James continued. 'It's a recessive gene.'
'Don't be sour,' said Hugo. 'Being branded has its negatives.'
'Ah, yes,' said James, recollecting. 'Sorry about that, mate. I'd hug it out, but I'm kind of... with child...'
'Did you have to say it like that?'
'It was too good an opportunity to pass up! And speaking of opportunities...' he leaned in closer. 'Are you or are you not Head Boy this year?'
Hugo blushed. 'I told Mum not to say anything! I told her!'
'It wasn't your mum,' said James. 'Your dad can't keep his mouth shut.'
'You're not serious —Dad?! Merlin, that's worse, if anything—'
'He's proud of you,' said Lily, butting into the conversation and bringing her half-eaten macaroon with her. 'Mum was the same when I got Quidditch captain last year. It'll pass.' She finished the macaroon, wiped her hands clean, then asked James, 'mind if I take Ben for a minute? Might help you to have some free hands—not that having a baby wouldn't.'
'What are you talking about?'
Lily's face was cryptic. 'Barbara has some very pretty Muggle relatives.'
James shrugged, handing over the baby Ben, who seemed more than eager to go to Lily. 'I'm not really bothered.'
'Don't want to date a Muggle?'
James stood, using Hugo's shoulder for support. 'It doesn't concern me. I'm twenty, don't you think I can find a girlfriend for myself?'
Hugo and Lily looked at each other.
'You've been single almost two years,' said the former.
'I mean, I don't mind if you're not whoring around,' said the latter, 'but you're a godfather, and your best mate is a real father. You're twenty, I know, but I don't think you've kissed someone since you were eighteen.'
'I don't think you've kissed someone since ever.'
Lily shrugged. 'That doesn't bother me.'
'Introduce these hot cousins to Lou—he's the one who's getting over a break-up.'
It was now late December, and Al had moved out since the last time Lily saw him. He was now flatting with Scorpius, of all people, who had complained about having too much space to himself since his ex-girlfriend moved out. She—"she" being Lily—had an enormous amount of difficulty finding the residence, which was the penthouse of some extravagant apartment building in central London, but when she arrived, somebody was already outside in the corridor waiting for her.
Scorpius's hair was longer than the last time she'd seen him, and despite the fact that she, too, had aged, she was surprised at just how much he had. He seemed taller, somehow, but there was a much more attainable quality to him now. Then again, the last lengthy interaction she had had with him was all those years ago, with that first year's broken arm.
'Lily!' he said cheerfully.
'Hey,' said Lily, 'I'm here to see Al... is he in?'
She grew wary of the faded smile on the young man's face.
'What's—what's wrong? What's happened? Is he inside?' Lily attempted to move past Scorpius, to the door, but he caught her by the wrist and she was forced to halt. 'What is it? Why won't you—?'
'Andy's in there,' said Scorpius, but it didn't sound like a joke. 'I think I know what's going on.'
Lily frowned. 'They're... they're not breaking up, are they?'
Scorpius sighed. 'Al's... Al's been really busy. And Andy's spending all her time over in Bristol at the bakery... it's—they don't—see each other. Ever.'
'Wait... who's doing the breaking up? Is he...?'
'No, it's her. Patricia sent me an owl.'
'Oh,' said Lily quietly. She tried her best to smile. 'How are you and her?'
Scorpius shrugged. 'Friendly enough. Don't see much of each other, though.'
Her eyes strayed to the doorway, behind which a sad, sad scene was unfolding. 'D'you think we can go in yet? I want to see him.'
'I think we'll know—'
The door behind them opened, to reveal Albus, who was looking downcast. Noticing Lily and Scorpius, he said with a shaky attempt at humour, 'done snogging my sister, Scorpius?'
Lily dashed over to her brother, throwing her arms around him. 'I've missed you so much,' she said, 'are you all right? No, of course you're not—I just—Al... oh, Al.'
Over Lily's head, which was pressed into Albus's shoulder, the boy looked at Scorpius. 'She's gone,' he mouthed, almost choking on the words. 'She's gone.'
Scorpius frowned. 'Did she say why?'
'"Better off as friends".'
The blond shrugged. 'You going to stay that way?' he said much louder.
Lily jerked, but Albus replied, 'I don't know. Can you ever really?'
Molly Weasley married Jason Smith on June 25th, in a beautiful ceremony to which many people were invited. They had been dating just over a year, but neither had ever been happy or more comfortable. Many people were present at the ceremony—the entirety of the bride and groom's friends and family, certainly—and the highlight of the evening was the fact that people could actually be seen laughing at things Percy Weasley said, and not because they were forced to.
Louis, who had been traveling a lot between England, France, and Romania in the past year, bought a truly lovely girl named Tabitha Perkins as his date, and he spent the entire night with her, dancing and talking and being a lot more than simply courteous. Albus came dateless, but spent most of the occasion talking to Sennen Cartwright, who had offered to do the catering of the wedding for free; her business partner hadn't accompanied her because she had to manage the shop, and Albus was sad to have not seen her, but there wasn't very much to be done.
Fred and Barbara's boys—Alex and Ben—were tottering around, pulled along by their cousin Julian (Victoire and Teddy's son) who was only a year older, but very enthusiastic about adventure. His sister, Amelia, watched enthusiastically from their father's arms. James brought Cordelia (after much heavy pestering—"strictly friendly, I promise; really not looking for anything there"), who had promised not to write about it, and had agreed to come as a friend of the family because she needed to get out and wear a nice dress for a change. This had made James laugh, and Roxanne did, too, when the story was relayed to her.
The evening was capped off with Jason whizzing around telling everyone exactly how he had finally perfected his "sonic screwdriver", something Molly still didn't quite understand, but appreciated all the same. Her husband waved it around at Barbara, for she was one of the very few people to understand why it was so important, and the two exchanged very long-winded, complicated sentences for the next fifteen minutes.
Lily had taken to spending long periods of time at Albus and Scorpius's flat, now that she was out of Hogwarts for good. She was on the reserve draft for the Holyhead Harpies, by some miracle, and she was doing an odd job for her dad in the Auror Office, but both of these left her with more than enough free time; free time she spent, most often, at the penthouse apartment.
Albus came home one evening in late July and found his sister sitting cross-legged on the couch, eating freshly-made banana bread with his best friend, Scorpius. It wasn't the first time Lily had been around—certainly not—but she and Scorpius were not particularly chummy, beyond joking remarks; definitely not chummy enough to be eating banana bread without him.
'Sennen sent it over,' said Scorpius, mouth full. He swallowed and continued, 'want any?'
'Is there any left?' asked Albus, slipping out of his shoes and joining them on the couch.
'Of course,' Lily insisted. 'Plenty.'
'So, what've you two been talking about? You know, apart from how to drive me mad?'
Lily rolled her eyes. 'Scorpius wants to change the world.'
'And Lily's a bit of a philanthropist.'
Albus raised his eyebrows. 'Already knew that, surprisingly enough. What—are you thinking of teaming up?'
Rose leafed through the first August edition of the Prophet, not paying Louis—who sat opposite—much attention.
'So,' he said, 'I heard Hugo's going out with that Sterling girl.'
Cordelia Gilbert had been working at the Daily Prophet for almost five years now. At the secure age of twenty-three, she had had quite her fair share of successful stories; involving Quidditch and laws being passed, as well as one particularly enjoyable collaboration with her friend Shelley, who was now the most highly-paid columnist for Witch Weekly, and had been dating a nice, laid-back guy who worked on the WWN for about two years.
She hadn't seen much of her Ravenclaw friends since she left school; she barely saw anyone these days. It was Patricia at lunch every few weeks, Andy and Sennen when she had a couple of days off; Al on the odd weekend and Will when time allowed. Scorpius, she saw most of, funnily enough. He was working with Lily Potter, of all people, trying to get the last few pureblood-favoring laws eradicated—it seemed to be Scorpius's way of "changing the world".
He and Lily had been successful in beating out any hint of prejudice n the workplace, especially in the older departments of the Ministry. There wasn't much to do otherwise, since most things were pretty equal, but there was always some battle to be fought, and it was usually one of those two people fighting it. (The amount of times Cordelia had had to interview them; it was insane!)
But anyway, on this particular day in late February, Cordelia had awoken to two things in her Chelsea flat: an envelope from Shelley Corner, and an envelope from Ginny Potter.
The Shelley one was talking all about this "strapping, tall Scottish bloke; kind of lanky, likes books—but cute, your type", because she seemed to think that being successful and single was not already synonymous with being happy. The Ginny Potter one was her assignment for the day, sent "overnight because you don't have to come in to the office".
It was probably the most prestigious event of the Southeast British Quidditch season: the publication of the drafting of the English National Team. Cordelia was given the task of going to the stadium where the announcement was being made, in front of all the players who'd first been asked to try out, and it was her job to get it all exclusively—the list, some interviews, the whole nine yards.
For someone who had always liked Quidditch quite a lot, this left Miss Gilbert quite excited indeed. She had hurried to clean up, get dressed, and arrived at the grounds at quarter to nine, fifteen minutes before the announcement was taking place.
She spoke to a few of the guys from Puddlemere United, and the girls from the Holyhead Harpies. James was somewhere over on the other side of the group, and when they locked eyes, Cordelia gave him a quick smile, before moving to take her seat as the event began.
Six of the fourteen chosen had already been announced, and none of them had been Chasers yet; the two drafted Seekers, the two Keepers, the first set of Beaters. James was biting his lip, breathing heavily. He'd been at these before, these drafting announcements. Never once had his name been called—he was still the youngest starting player on the Montrose Magpies, but he was twenty-four; there would only be four more of these things before he was thirty, and then his lifetime dream of playing for England before reaching the big Three-Oh would have been a failure.
It wasn't like he had something else to go home to, if this didn't work out. Fred and Barbara had four-year-olds running around the house, causing torment and being adorable; Teddy and Victoire had their kids, Molly and Jason had theirs on the way. Hell, Louis was engaged to that Tabitha bird—even Al was seeing someone (after having been set up by his ex, now that was a bit awkward, but he and Sennen were both really dorky and seemed to like each others' company, so James was happy for his brother).
And still, once a massive womanizer, James Potter was single.
He'd been on a couple of dates, but the longest-standing one of those was a month, before he had to break it off due to the fact the girl hated the colour gold and the smell of cleaning fluid, for crying out loud.
But the point of the entire thing was, if James didn't get this, he didn't really have someone waiting at home to comfort him.
She was manically noting down everyone's name as they were called—"Iwan Crowe", being the last one—but Cordelia's quill slowed as the selection of Chasers began. Those who had been chosen were filing out of the room, into the more celebratory conference area, and their teams were going with them.
'Davey Crotchet,' from the Wasps was chosen, as was the Tornadoes', 'Walsh Fitzpatrick.'
The numbers were dwindling down—four draftees left.
'Abi-Marie Winters, of the Holyhead Harpies.'
Cordelia smiled, despite the fact she wasn't meant to have any kind of bias. She liked Abi; they'd spoken a few times, and the brunette witch seemed to be even kinder than she was athletic, as corny as that sounds.
Two spots left. Two spots left.
Bloody Lance Kipling. If that jumped-up prick gets on the National Team and I don't, I think I'll punch something.
James tried to keep his breathing even. There were two more people to be chosen, out of ten players to try out. His palms were sweaty, curled under clenched fists. He had to get this. He had to.
Merlin, it'd be so embarrassing for him to not be chosen in front of Cordelia—forget the fact she had to turn this over to his mum later!
'Denise Fisher, of the Appleby Arrows.'
Shit. One more.
Cordelia breathed out. One last name.
And then they said it, like music.
'James Potter, of the Montrose Magpies.'
And suddenly he did have someone to share it with. Not waiting for him at home, but here, just like she'd always been. On the same wavelength as him and everything, without even being aware of it. It kind of hit James like a Bludger, like it had the first time he'd kissed her. The same person from all those years ago was with him now, on the most important day of his life.
And it was so, so right.
She was right there, and she was so beautiful. She wasn't even looking at him, but then again, it had always been him instigating these things. He was always one step ahead, but only in terms of this.
All James knew was that, as everyone else was leaving, for the other conference space, he was going the opposite way, to the opposite side of the room. To her. And he was kind of running.
Then he reached her and she turned to say something, presumably "congratulations" but James expected he'd hear that word hundreds of times in the coming hours, so instead he just threw his arms around her, with such force that they both ended up spinning.
'Oh, my goodness, James —you—oh—this is great, isn't it?'
'Twice as great now,' he said.
She gave a small smile. 'Why's that?'
He shrugged. 'Perhaps because, after not really seriously meeting someone for so many years, I've finally figured out why. And I think you're going to like it.'
Cordelia raised her eyebrows. 'Care to enlighten me?'
'Promise you won't publish this?'
She rolled her eyes.
'See,' said James, not even caring that he was still holding her anymore, 'I met this girl while I was at school. And she was fantastic, but we kind of messed things up. And we haven't really talked for a while, but she's always sort of been there, especially when it was most important. And, funnily enough, she's here today. Right now, in fact.'
'Then perhaps you should go tell her.'
James smiled. 'I'm getting to that.'
'Good,' said Cordelia, 'because she might have something to do.'
'You've always got a witty remark, haven't you?'
'Face it. I'm just much wittier than you are.'
'No, I am very witty.'
'I know, but I'm more so.'
Miss Gilbert was, indeed, very much "shut up". By James Potter's lips, no less.
In early October, Patricia Day sent out a series of letters announcing her engagement to Tumbleweed's bass guitar and ukulele player, Benji Marchbanks. Scorpius went to the engagement party, and commented that Benji was just as—if not more—fit than he'd been when they first met at Christmas that one time, and he and the groom-to-be actually got on quite well, which Patricia couldn't tell if she liked or was weirded out by. Andy, who was present and single and not at all uncomfortable with Sennen and Albus, did a lot of dancing at this party, and almost knocked over a piano.
It took place in a chapel that was simple enough, with lots of food and music at the reception that followed. The bride looked gorgeous and laughed a lot, and her husband failed in all attempts to reign in his family. The catering was all done for free, because Andy had insisted, and it was a good thing she kept the wedding cake policed, because at one point, the very clumsy, very Muggle wedding photographer—a childhood friend of Sennen's —stopped to clean his lens, got knocked over by Rose Bowen's toddler slamming into his legs, and launched himself, entirely accidentally, onto and into the wedding cake.
'Oh—oh, God—I'm so sorry—'
He continued the incoherent stammering, but Andy, checking out the damage of the cake, turned to him and said, 'look, don't worry about it. I'll have this fixed up in a sec.'
'How?' he asked, cheeks rising in colour.
'Don't question me. Just help me get this thing into the kitchen.' She glanced around at the rest of the guests, and the newlyweds themselves. 'One second, you lot. I promise.'
Together, Andy and the wedding photographer shuffled past each table, carrying the broken cake on its stand; past Barbara and Fred, whose sons looked at the cake, then the photographer, and said, 'wicked!', past Hugo and his long-time girlfriend Gabbie, past Cordelia and the elderly woman who was investigating the month-old wedding ring on the journalist's finger.
'I don't know how you're going to fix this,' said the wedding photographer, when they finally reached the kitchen. 'I'm so sorry.'
Andy shook her head. 'Don't worry! This'll just take a second. Get out.'
He filed out of the room, shutting the door behind him. Andy gave her wand one wave, then paused to listen to the photographer's anguished monologue: 'he's going to kill me—I've lost my job—there it goes; I can practically see it leaving me!' She laughed, taking a second to admire her handiwork (for the cake was perfectly restored, all icing and dollops of cream), then poked her head out the door.
'If you're done, I may need some help getting this back in to the reception.'
'What? You've fixed it.'
'Hell yeah. I'm magic.'
(They've been dating ever since.)
'You guys mess this up, I'll kill you,' said Lily, eyeballing her family.
'You guys mess this up, I'll never forgive you,' said Scorpius, eyeballing his family.
James raised his eyebrows. 'Don't worry about me. I've grown to quite like the guy. He's a laugh.'
Draco tried for a smile. 'At least she's not a Weasley. By name.'
'Good,' Lily told him. 'Because I would have never spoken to you again if you'd messed up my wedding.'
Astoria glared at her husband. 'Don't listen to your father. I like Lily. She's got spunk—and she's not overly dependent. That's good.'
'You're telling me,' said Scorpius. 'You're not the one who waited three years to kiss her.'
'And I won't have any stabs from granddad!' Lily told her mother. 'He knows Scorpius isn't a prick.' She chuckled. 'Bloke's so spineless I had to kiss him first.'
'Scorpius isn't spineless,' Al argued, pulling his son away from Lily's perfectly-constructed hair, for fear Aunt Fleur would swoop in and have a fit.
'You say that because he kissed you,' muttered James.
'I was seventeen—shut up!'
Back Where We Began: September 1
It was warm for September, and the platform was crowded. There was a crowd of about twenty people standing together on one side, near to the train. A ginger-haired man stood beside his shorter, brunette wife, who was fussing over whether or not her sons—both much taller than her now—were ready to go, if they'd forgotten anything.
'No, mum,' Alex Weasley grumbled. 'You made us check three times.'
'Not counting on the way here,' Ben, his twin, pointed out.
'Well, I had to be sure,' Barbara told them, straightening out a disgruntled Alex's collar. 'I do worry about you, you know.'
'They've managed six years before this, Barbs,' her husband soothed, 'I think a seventh might be just habitual.'
'Yeah, exactly!' Ben said, reaching across to give his dad one last hug. 'You ready, Alex?'
Alex mimed cracking his knuckles. 'Cressida Corner is looking particularly fit this year. Mum, stop, I'm kidding!'
The boys began to hurry off, and Fred leaned over to his wife. 'Three... two...'
'No, I'm not!' called Alex, without looking back.
Barbara stared at her husband. 'How did you do that? Count down?'
Fred shrugged. 'Spent my whole life with James. Our older twin just so happens to be a carbon copy.'
'Remember, Matt, don't hit anyone if you want to be Head Boy.'
'Unless they're being a total swat. In which case, sock them in the jaw.'
'Don't listen to your mother.'
Matt stared at his father, green eyes judgmental. 'Since when have I ever?'
Albus shrugged, winding an arm around his son. 'I'll give you that. But don't hit anyone, all right? And don't duel someone who probably has half the brainpower, because it's just unfair.'
Again, Matt stared at him. Then he pulled up the arm of his jumper to reveal a very skinny limb; he flexed, to no avail. 'Dad. I think brainpower's the only form of superiority I've got. Don't worry about me misusing it.'
Sennen laughed. 'And I thought you'd actually punch someone.' She hugged her son, much against his will, and said, 'you'd best get on the train before it leaves. I'll write every day.'
'Mum, it's not like I'm dying. Just let me go.'
Albus rumpled up his son's hair. 'See you in a bit, yeah?'
'Try four months.'
'It might kill me.'
Matt grinned. 'Okay.' He bit his lip. 'I'm going to go now.'
Sennen and Albus took a step back, both gesturing to the train's open doors. Matt braced himself, turned to them, waved, and began to step backwards towards the train. (He then, of course, proceeded to trip over another student's trunk.)
'Oh, Merlin, sorry—' He turned to his parents and waved one more time. 'Bye, Mum! Bye, Dad!'
Al raised a hand. 'Bye, son.'