I wiped away the fog from the mirror and looked at myself, really looked at myself for the first time in so very long. I wasn’t sure who I was looking at. The dark auburn curls were the same, even if I could see the odd wisp of gray here and there. My eyes were still the strange light brown-green-yellow mix they’d always been, even if they didn’t smile anymore. Weren’t Irish eyes always supposed to smile? I was still covered in freckles. Honestly I’m thirty-nine, nearly forty and I’ve still got the damned splash of brown spots that tumble across my nose and cheeks, dancing between the crows feet I’d developed at the corners of my eyes and up into my hair. The tiny dark prints continued down my neck, across my chest and shoulders and then left a trail southward on my spine. I looked at the pallid woman in the mirror, remembering someone who thought my freckles were tempting when he’d kissed his way around my entire body, ‘connecting the dots’ as he’d tease…
Stop. Just don’t go there. Thinking of him would come to no good.
I stepped from the steamy inner cupboard of my bathroom — which held the toilet and shower stall — to the larger bathroom beyond. My mother had put the dammed mirror up in the shower, claiming it helped her make sure she got the soap all out of her hair. I just used my hands to feel for it, but, whatever. It was her house; she could do as she pleased. She’s been gone for over ten years, and somehow, I can’t bring myself to take the darned thing down. Yet another place where I’d stalled out in my life. When I came back to this house four months ago I was determined to make it my own, and not to simply live in the home my parents had bequeathed to me upon their deaths. I’d done nothing to change any of the rooms, save one. Thoughts of the occupant made me smile. The room deserved to reflect the one living in it. Except of course, nothing had changed in my bedroom; it looked just as it had in my childhood. If I could escape to those days I would... and oh, the changes I would make.
I slumped down in the chair at my vanity and ran my fingers through the damp tresses, looking at my face again, dismayed.
“How did you become this person?” I asked her aloud. I was Persephone Gwendolyn MacPhearson, daughter of Robert Walter MacPhearson and Elizabeth Engelsley MacPhearson. I was born to have a charmed life. My father was the liaison between the Ministry of Magic and the International Confederation of Wizards. My mother, an internationally recognized Herbologist and apothecary. The seventh daughter, the baby, Daddy’s little princess. I was to get an education, follow in my mother’s career, have my marriage arranged to a fine young man from an upstanding pure-blood line and then have my own children to be raised as I was; pampered, privileged, proud. It was the bedtime fairy tale of my childhood. One out of four isn’t that bad… is it? I scoffed at my own stupidity of youth.
In my life, I’d watched as the world I believed I would inherit disappeared. I’d betrayed the only friend who stood by me as I attempted to stand on my own and did not do the one thing she’d asked of me in all the years we’d known each other. I refused marry someone who loved me. I’d left a child alone and unprotected in the world. I watched as the Wizarding world nearly collapsed under darkness. I was a miserable failure as a witch, a friend, a daughter, but I was trying now. I had a reason to live a better life. I owed their memories that much.
I lifted my wand and dried my hair, unaccustomed to using magic after so many years of denying myself. There were still many days I found myself doing the tasks of daily life as a Muggle, just because I’d grown accustomed to it. I dug through the vanity drawer and quickly applied a small amount of eye shadow and a light smear of colored lip balm. There wasn’t much point in applying much else, I’d be spending my day over hot vats and steaming liquid, more make-up would simply melt away, even if I charmed it. External beauty is a folly from adolescence I'd abandoned long ago.
I dressed quickly in my red and gold pinstripe company logo blouse, chuckling at the embroidery of the silly design we’d come up with all those years ago on a bed in the confines of Gryffindor Tower. I added a long, black, pencil skirt which flared at the knees to complete my look. Even on brew days, I was still the boss. I’d much rather be in jeans and a tee shirt, always had. Even when I was young, I hated dressing up. It felt fraudulent even as a youngster. I grabbed the locket from next to my bed, lowered the long chain over my head and let it rest around my neck, pulling my hair out from underneath. I touched the small clasp and it popped open, and I stared at the two similar faces smiling at me. This was something else I was going to need to come clean with, and soon. He had a right to know. The boy, no, he was a man now. He’d proven himself so worthy only months ago, and there are so many things he should know now. I was afraid to tell him, though, because if I was fully honest, he might never want to see me again.
Unfortunately, he’d be completely justified in his actions.
I closed the locket and slid it into my blouse. It would be a conversation for another day. Today was simply about business. I slid my feet into the high heels, the distinctive red sole matching my blouse and the company colors perfectly. There wasn’t much Muggles did better than wizards, but shoes were definitely one of them. I really didn’t need the three-inch heels. I stood nearly six feet when I wore them. I just liked how powerful they made me feel. When I was dressed like this, I could push the memories aside and carry on. I quickly made the bed and then headed downstairs.
It was still early, so the only member of the household awake was Beaghméid, my beloved house-elf. She didn’t really work for me any longer, but she didn’t want to leave either. She now managed my household staff, keeping the MacPhearson estate running and me from slipping into soul crushing despair. She handed me an insulated travel cup of tea just before I left for the day, promising she’d take care of things at home.
“You worry too much, Mistress,” she said, shaking her head back and forth and clucking her tongue the way my mum had. I wasn’t sure who had picked up the habit from whom. Beaghy was brought into the house when Mummy had been born. She still saw me as Seph MacPhearson, privileged daughter to her true mistress. To the world however, I was Perri Gwynn, a strong, independent business woman who was reliable and trustworthy.
Seph had let too many people down to be any of those things.
“Beaghy, I have a lot on my mind,” I dismissed her concerns. “I’ll be fine once we get the second plant back up and running. I need to go. I want to review the facility before I have to go and meet…” I paused, “my new partners.”
Before she had a chance to say anything else, I slipped out of the front door and into my waiting car. I could Apparate again. I’d renewed my license and no longer had the landing issues that plagued me a few years ago, but I found solace behind the wheel of my car. I turned the stereo up and sang along with the words to the sorrowful song which often played from the tape deck in the dash.
“…every moment marked with apparitions of your soul…”
If the others only knew how they haunted me. They were everywhere and in everything I did. Twenty years ago, there were eight of us. We honestly thought we’d all make it out of the war alive and still have each other. Now there was just Eliza and I and she lived in a world of her own making. How Peter could have…? Of all the betrayals, what he did to Eliza was the most personal. He gave James and Lily up to Voldemort, but he'd personally annihilated Eliza’s mind and body. She was a mere shell of a human, and there were times I honestly thought death would have been preferable to what she was enduring now.
I was truly alone. I probably deserved it.
As I pulled into the parking lot, I pushed the thoughts aside and started to prepare myself for the events of the day. The overnight crew was busily working on the production floor, and I was happy to see the condition of the ingredients. Thankfully, when life was tough, beer sales were strong. Life had been difficult for the last few years, even for the Muggles. We were doing exceptionally well as a business.
I went through my files and paid the bills of the day quickly as well as clearing a few correspondences from my desk. I pulled out the scrapbook I kept in my bottom drawer, and then slid the photos from my desk into the book's hiding place. He’d want to see how it all began. I arranged the company clothing I had made for the both of them and pulled the incorporation papers as well as the forms for him to sign, creating a small pile on my desk. I was ready, well not really, but at least I was professionally prepared.
Ten minutes before my meeting I pulled my fingers through my hair, loosening some of the tightness of my curls before I twisted it all up into a messy bun and secured it with a set of blunt end pencils I kept on my desk for just such a need. A quick swipe of lip balm and I walked out of my office, headed for the front door. They’d already arrived and were waiting by the front desk. None of the office staff were in yet, so they just stood there, looking around at the pictures and artwork of our lobby. I stopped cold in my tracks as I saw the pair, looking so much like his Mum and Dad that it made tears burn my eyes.
The click of my heels on the polished floor alerted them to my arrival and they turned to greet me. Warm smiles spread across both their faces, and instead of putting me at ease, it made my heart clench even more. I hadn’t seen him in two and a half years, not since that last Christmas at Sirius’s house. He’d grown since then, taller, broader but also I could see he was so much wiser. She was simply a stunning woman. They looked right together. I could see how much they were in love just by how his hand held hers and she looked upon him in his excitement.
“Harry, Ginny,” I said as I lifted my hand to shake theirs each in turn. “Welcome to Mischievously Managed Brewery.”