“Seph, how could you have disappeared? You’re right here, in front of us?” I questioned. She turned to look at us, and it was only now I saw the tears streaking her cheeks.
“Harry, Persephone MacPhearson disappeared, Perri Gwynn was born that day. It’s a very long and complex story I’m quite certain will bore you,” she explained, even her voice sounding distant. “There are only a handful of people left who would even know to call me Seph anymore. The rest have all…” She ran her hands over her cheeks and then back through her hair, pulling it out of the bun it had been in when we were on the brewing floor. She then squared her shoulders, took a deep breath, and something changed within her. “Anyway, about how MMB started—”
A knock on the door interrupted her. She reached over and opened it, letting in an older woman carrying two large trays of food as well as a small paperboard box with some bottles in it. I stood up quickly as to help her, as did Seph. Once everything was set up on the small table in the office, Seph put a hand on the woman’s shoulder.
“Harry Potter, Ginny Weasley, this is Kate Montgomery, my true right-hand woman around this place,” she explained. Kate’s hair was a salt and pepper grey, pulled up into a fancy twist which hung down her back. She had on a similar shirt to Seph’s, bearing the colourful logo of the brewery as well. She was a round woman, not fat but not skinny like Seph or athletic like Ginny. She was short, her head only coming up to Seph’s shoulder. She was wearing some multi-coloured trainers on her feet, which I found quite amusing. “Kate, Harry is James and Lily’s son,” Seph explained and Kate’s eyes grew wide.
“Of course he is,” she said as she grabbed me and gave me a squeeze. I wasn’t sure what was going on with these Muggles, but they were very touchy sorts of folks. “My heavens, you look like him, but those eyes, oh, they’re like your mum’s. They were such happy people, always smiling and laughing…” Kate blushed a little as she smiled, seemingly happy in whatever memory she was replaying. “Gave birth to my youngest the same month you were born.” The phone rang and she jumped a little. “Can’t seem to ever leave that desk,” she muttered before she left the office, the door clicking shut behind her.
“Kate’s been the receptionist and all-around mother-hen since the place opened. She’s spoiled all of us, and I assume she’ll pamper you, too. She breezes around the place, remembers everyone’s name and celebrates every employee’s birthday. I’d be lost without her. Please, sit down, have something to eat. I had Kate bring up some of our signature brew, the MMB, but if you’d rather drink something else—”
“After spending all morning watching it being made, I want to see what it tastes like,” Ginny excitedly remarked.
“Gin, I know enough about beer to know it isn’t like Butterbeer,” I warned her. “You can get drunk off this stuff.”
“One bottle isn’t going to make me drunk,” she answered, sounding irritated. Seph handed us each a bottle from the little box and a plate from one of the platters Kate had brought in. I stared at the beer for a moment, trying to figure out how to open it. Ginny must have had the same concern, as she was drawing her wand from her back pocket.
“Sorry, Ginny,” Seph stated as she lifted her hands in front of her in a motion to indicate stop, “magic is strictly forbidden here. I have never done spells in the building, since the staff is almost all Muggle; the exception is Walter, he’s a Squib. For the longest time, I couldn’t risk the Ministry knowing about this place or that I was here. Why don’t you use this bottle opener instead?” Seph grabbed the metal stick from the tray and demonstrated how to open the bottle, the bottle cap popping off and a slight mist coming up from the neck and out the opening.
Ginny repeated the action, as did I, and then Seph tipped her bottle toward us, and we clinked the necks before taking a swig in unison. It definitely didn’t taste like Butterbeer, nor did it taste like Firewhiskey. It was completely different from anything I’d sampled, but I liked it. By the face Ginny was making, it was obvious she didn’t.
“Not to your liking?” Seph asked her, a smile creeping across her lips despite her attempt to not let it.
“It’s…” Ginny pursed her lips together and I could tell her tongue was moving around in her mouth,”…it tastes bitter and tart and like the potion Mum gave me when I had an upset stomach as a child.” I nearly spit out my mouthful at her comment.
“I have never quite heard beer described that way,” Seph laughed. “Okay, well an Ordinary Bitter isn’t your brew. Would you like something else?” Ginny nodded. “A different beer or some juice?”
“I think I’ll go with juice this time,” Ginny stated as she put the beer on the table and reached to take a sandwich and some crisps. Seph called out to Kate again, asking for some juice to be brought in. I took another swig, appreciating the subtle flavours the beer contained and then grabbed myself some lunch. It couldn’t have been a minute before Kate came back in, bottles of apple juice in her hands. She handed them to Seph and was able to exit the door before it had even closed from her trip in.
“Thanks, Kate,” Seph said to the older woman’s back.
The juice was more to Ginny’s liking and once we were all settled down with our food, Seph started talking again.
“So, where was I?” I was about to remind her we were talking about Persephone disappearing when she started back into the story. “Ah, yes, we decided to open the brewery. The original plan was to only open a Wizarding one; however, a rather disturbing surprise necessitated my living in the Muggle world. Your dad is the one who came up with the idea of having two breweries. Money became the next issue. Our group ran the gamut on family and personal wealth — your dad, Sirius and Eliza being at one end and Remus and Sibéal being at the other. We wanted to be equal partners, not having someone having more power than anyone else. Your mum came up with the idea that everyone would contribute what they could, but it would be a secret as to how much each person had added to the pot. We opened a separate account at Gringotts and each person deposited what they could. Those were our start up funds. Regardless of what anyone put in, we each owned an eighth of the company. As we lost people over the years, we’ve come down to just five shares.” The last sentence was barely a whisper.
“Five?” I questioned, “Who is there, besides you and me?”
“Well, Eliza is still alive, but she requires full-time in-patient care. The brewery pays her bills, even if it's more than her share. When it happened, Remus, Sirius, Sibéal and I amended the corporation papers to provide for her. Just so you're aware, it isn't something I'm willing to discuss changing.
“Since his death, Remus’s share is sent to Andi Tonks to help with raising little Teddy. I have my share and you have both your mum and dad’s. You technically own a bigger portion of this place than I do. Be kind, boss,” she attempted to joke, but none of us laughed.
“I don’t need both their shares,” I protested.
“No, keep them, share them with your girlfriend there,” she nodded toward Ginny. “I promise, there are plenty of profits to go around.” I nodded in response. Seph closed her eyes and rubbed her forehead. I glanced at Ginny and she was watching the older woman as well. No one said anything for a few minutes, so we simply ate in silence. I finished the beer and reached for Ginny’s unfinished one. Ginny mouthed “say something” to me, but I had no idea what to say, so I shrugged my shoulders. Gin shook her head, rolled her eyes and then spoke.
“Seph,” Ginny called the woman and she looked up, “how many types of beer do you brew here?”
“Good question,” she replied. “We have four standard brews, one semi-seasonal and four seasonal brews. The MMB or Magical Mischief Brew is the first one we came up with. It’s an Ordinary Bitter, and it’s a very common style in England. As I said, we just developed Moonlit Memories, which is a sweet brown beer. We also brew Padfoot’s Pride, an English Porter, and a Scottish Ale called Stag’s Surprise.”
“Interesting names,” I quipped.
“Yes, well, naming the beers were the only contentious discussions we ever had,” Seph explained. “Peter always wanted his own way… how we didn’t see his issues before…” she looked pained as she spoke about him.
“Was he really their friend?” I had to ask. Somehow, in my head it made it easier to believe he wasn’t really their friend. I couldn’t even imagine Hermione or Ron betraying me. I needed Peter to be an acquaintance, rather than someone they trusted.
“He certainly seemed to be our friend, but…” she hesitated on the word and then looked past us, as if she wasn’t speaking to Gin and me, but rather a memory, “…he constantly needed assurances. He was uncertain in everything he did, schoolwork, flying, dressing himself when we went into Hogsmeade…” Seph shook her head, as if she were shaking away the memory.
“Back to the beer. Our semi-seasonal is called Lover’s Libation and we only brew two batches a year. We first made it to serve at your mum and dad’s wedding. It’s a Welsh Bragawd, so it’s very sweet and heavily spiced. It’s also one of the few brews meant to be served at room temperature or warmer,” she explained. “It’s my favourite.”
“If you like it so much, why make so little?” I asked.
“It’s a completely different process to make it. We have to shut down production, clean and sterilize the machines, and then reconfigure them to make it. Financially, it doesn’t make sense to do it very often.”
“We also make four seasonal beers: a winter Porter, a spring Irish Red Ale, a summer golden wheat IPA or India Pale Ale, and an autumn Lager. We’ll start the autumn brew in another couple of weeks. Again, these are smaller batches, and when they’re gone, they’re gone for the year,” she explained and, while I wasn’t sure I completely understood why you’d only make something available for a few months, I felt confident she knew the reasoning behind the decision.
We’d finished eating and Seph suggested we move back to the desk area where she had some papers for me to sign. She explained the incorporation papers, as well as my contract. While she suggested I have a solicitor look at it, I declined. If my parents had been involved and they trusted her, I couldn’t see a reason why I shouldn’t as well. Seph was showing Ginny some clothing she had piled on a low table behind her desk. I took the photo album back and briefly looked at the two nearly identical pictures, wondering what happened between Hogsmeade Station and King’s Cross. While the seven were smiling in the second picture, it seemed somehow forced.
I flipped through several more pages, laughing at some of the poses. Sirius was obviously the joker of the bunch, he was nearly always laughing and it made me smile. He hadn’t been this carefree when I’d known him.
“You look rather happy there, Harry. What are you looking at?” Seph asked even as Ginny came over and sat down next to me again.
“Sirius,” I explained. “He seems happy. He was my godfather, did you know that?” Seph went white and stumbled back into her chair.
“I did know that,” she answered, even through her laboured breaths. “Don’t let the smile fool you, he wasn’t all about the jokes. He often laughed through his tears.” She was lost in thought again, but as rapidly as it started, it stopped. Seph put her hands on her desk, stood up and went to the door.
“Well, it’s late and we’ve covered the essentials. I’ll see you in two days at the other site and you can see how we get the beers started. Thanks so much for coming in today.”
Seph opened up the door and then grabbed the clothing pile, nearly shoving it toward Ginny. We made our hasty goodbyes and before we knew it, Gin and I were in the car park.
“Wow, what just happened?” I asked her.
“I think we touched on a raw nerve,” she answered. “Come on, let’s get home. Mum’s making dinner and wants to hear all about today. Maybe she or Dad can shed some light on who Persephone was or something about her family. I get the feeling she’s keeping secrets.”