I groaned as my alarm went off, I hadn’t been asleep for at least an hour, but I didn’t want to get up, either. As I’d promised Harry, I’d spent yesterday going through the albums of photos of my friends as we grew up. The earliest picture of James and me together was from his first birthday. Sirius was there too, Sibéal came along by the time we were four, the rest when we went to school at eleven. I had an entire trunk filled with albums, journals and recipe books from the life of one of Harry’s parents. Going through them, however, had been painful for me.
I threw my arm over my eyes, hoping to block the sun out for a few more minutes; I needed to mentally prepare myself for the day. I had been so rude to Harry and Ginny on Monday afternoon, throwing them out of my office as I had. I wished I could explain to them what hearing Sirius’ name and his relationship to Harry did to me. James had made Sirius promise him to care for Harry if anything happened to him, Lily had made me swear the same oath. Needless to say, I’d failed miserably on that count.
I thought back to the times when I’d gone to check up on Harry, watching him at school, through the gates on the play-yard. I could have picked him out of a thousand children; it wasn’t hard, as he was the spitting image of his dad. When he was first in his reception class, I was routinely disgusted with the outfits he wore, wondering where the clothes I had sent him were. I always had presents delivered for his birthday and for Christmas, but I never saw him playing with the toys or wearing the outfits. I suspected they were given to his obnoxious cousin instead. After two years of watching him, I finally decided sending things to the Dursleys was a lost cause. I would continue to have things given to him at his aunt's house, but I also needed a back-up. One day I went to speak with the head of his school, who, as it turned out, was concerned about Harry as well. Together we arranged for Harry to get new shoes — he kept them in his cubby at school — so at least he had proper footwear for athletics and recess. I provided him with a winter coat and boots and even knitted him new mittens every year. Eventually, the school stopped contacting the Dursleys when Harry needed supplies for a project or money for a day trip, and just let me provide for him.
Twice I attempted to confront Vernon and Petunia, but each time Dumbledore showed up as I rounded the drive and stopped me. He told me his concern was that Lily’s sister would insist I take Harry from her. I assured Dumbledore it was what Lily and James had wanted, and he’d be perfectly safe with me. I had been in hiding longer than his parents, and no one knew where I was unless I wanted them to. He flatly refused to let me take him, saying he needed to remain with his ‘blood relatives’. The term hurt. While I wasn’t a close blood relation of James — we were truly barely related — he was my brother in every other way. Lily meant more to me than any of my sisters. Those things should have been enough.
Relations were already strained between the Hogwarts Headmaster and me by the time I witnessed how poorly Harry’s relatives treated him. When I heard they’d arrested Sirius on charges of betraying James and Lily, I was outraged. How anyone who’d known either of the men could honestly believe Sirius would betray James was beyond me. Yet, so many people did, including the Headmaster, who had entrusted both men to do very important and delicate missions for the Order. How his opinion of Sirius turned so quickly, I will never understand. Dumbledore had to know Sirius would have cut off his right leg before he’d let any harm come to his best friend, Lily and their son. Apparently, though, my word wasn’t enough to go on, especially since, as he put it, 'I was unavailable to speak to the Wizengamot on Sirius’ behalf'. It was a low blow, especially due to the reason I was in hiding. He never went to Sibéal, Eliza or Remus to ask their opinions on the subject. Stymied in my caring for either of them, I did what I could, but it was insignificant in the grand picture of things.
I sighed and threw the covers off me. I needed to get up, get moving on the day and not allow myself to wallow in my sea of “what-ifs” and “could-haves”. It wouldn’t have been too difficult to drown in them. I couldn’t allow it, though; I now had others who were depending on me. They deserved to have me at least attempt to embrace my continued existence.
Lacking the energy to really bathe, I simply did some Cleansing Charms and then pulled my hair into a messy ponytail. I pulled out a long-sleeved jersey shirt, the magical logo on this one, and a pair of jeans for today; the new plant was nearly finished, but it would be still be messy. I was thankful for a day to ‘dress down’ and wear my more comfortable clothing. I pulled my trainers from the bottom of the wardrobe and slid my feet into them. The last thing I added was my locket, safely hiding it under my shirt and near my heart. The two occupants certainly resided there. A flick of my wand made my bed and sent my nightclothes to the hook in the bathroom to await my night-time retrieval.
I peeked into the bedroom down the hall, and found the bed empty and the room a bit of a mess. “Typical,” I mumbled before I swished my wand and set it to rights. Beaghy didn’t need to be cleaning in here.
As I headed down the stairs, I could hear everyone else was gathered in the dining room. The MacPhearson property employed many people, some in the Great House and others in the fields. Once a month they all gathered for breakfast; I had almost forgotten today was the monthly get together. I rounded the corner, walked into the large room and took my seat at the head of the table. Warm salutations were sent my way from those gathered, and I returned them with as much gratitude as I could muster.
The smallest member of the household, Connor, was enthusiastic in his welcoming of me this morning. At nineteen months old, he was precocious and inquisitive. His lopsided smile was covered in elderberry jam, which caused me to stifle a laugh. Elizabeth wiped his face in a motherly way, removing the purple goo from his sweet face.
“So, Master Connor, what are your plans for the day?” I asked him.
“Go see Mada and Eddie,” he replied before he put another gooey triangle of toast in his mouth, again smearing his lips with jam.
“Well, that sounds like fun. Make sure you take them some of the berries and a jar of jam for me. Can you remember to do that?” He nodded excitedly at having a ‘job’ to do.
I listened to the rest of my staff report on the harvest, which was ongoing, and when we could expect to send the wheat off to be prepared. I thanked them all for their continued support when the meeting was completed and rose to head out. I quickly conferred with Beaghy about the gifts for Connor to take with him and said my goodbyes; the last one was for the little boy, a quick ruffling of his hair. I shrunk down the trunk of books for Harry and stowed it in my pocket before going out the front door and Disapparating to the site of the magical brewery.
The new building was beautiful. When it was discovered early last year that I was using my supply buying trips to the continent to smuggle information to the French, German and Russian magical governments, the brewery was attacked and destroyed. What the Death Eaters didn't realise was that I was using the Muggle brewery as the cover, not the magical one. Then again, the existence of the Muggle one was a closely held secret. While it was unfortunate the building was destroyed, it was only a building. My office, the recipe books and all my contacts were located safely away in the place no one, save my two contacts within the Order, knew existed.
I pulled out my wand and tapped on the door, it swung open and I went inside. The lobby was complete: large replicas of the bottle artwork hung around the room, and a huge picture of the eight of us hung behind the information desk.
“My god, we were such babies when we started this,” I muttered to myself while I stared at the large version of the photograph which Harry had commented on two days ago. My eyes were drawn to a single pair in the picture, the ones which went back and forth from the camera, to my face, and back again. My gut twisted and I needed to stop tormenting myself by staring and regretting. I glanced away, and focused again on the nearly completed structure.
Off the lobby to the left were the offices, three of them: one for Harry and Ginny, one for the brewmaster — whom I had yet to hire— and one for me. Walter and Kate would keep things orderly at the other brewery; I needed to be here to get things off the ground. I was planning to let Harry and Ginny pick out their office furniture today, and place our order for delivery next week.
To the right was something new, a tap room, for people to come and try our line fresh from the tap. It was something American micro-breweries were doing with great success, and I had decided to include one here. I opened the glass doors to the tap room and realised it wasn't as far along as other parts of the building. I would need to discuss this with the foreman.
I went back into the lobby and through to the brewery floor. Immediately, I saw an issue, a bend in the line from the hot water tank to the mash tun. I knew I had specifically asked for the line to be kept straight, to prevent excessive condensation. It would need to be corrected to my specifications, even if it meant charming the ceiling to accommodate the necessary space.
I walked through the remainder of the floor, and fortunately found everything else to be done to the specs I had left. I was especially excited to see our new bottling machine. It had twice the capacity as our old one, which would mean the beer would get sealed even faster, leaving it with a fresher taste.
I left the brew floor out the back door and walked on the covered walkway to the slightly smaller rear building. This was the biggest change for both breweries. In the past we'd used a building outside of London to store our grains and then another for the malting and milling processes. With the addition of this building, we would be able to do all of it on site, only then needing to move the grains for the Muggle brews. It will be so much easier with everything together.
After checking everything in the grain house, I locked it up and returned to the main building. As I left the brew floor and headed back to the lobby, I could see Harry and Ginny by the front door. I would need to adjust the charms on the door, allowing for each of their wands to provide entrance, regardless of the time of day. I took a deep breath, pulled the trunk from my pocket and restored it to size and left it sitting near the reception desk.
As I walked closer, I could see they were both wearing company shirts, the Muggle logo prominently displayed. It made me happy to see how they had embraced their involvement. I wasn't sure what their plans were for the autumn — it was something I planned to ask them about later today — but their enthusiasm affected me in a way I wasn't prepared for: it made me happy to have continued the company. Harry was able to share in something his parents had loved so.
“Harry, Ginny, I hope you weren't waiting long?” I asked as I opened the door and welcomed them in.
“No, we just got here,” Harry said.
I was about to give Harry the trunk with the books when he interrupted my actions, his face scrunched into a puzzled look.
“Please, don't take this wrong, but what is that on your shirt?” I looked down and chuckled.
“That is St Dolf, the mascot of the magical brews of the MMB,” I explained. “Your mum is the one who drew the original. We’ve had to tinker with it over the years.”
“I don't get it,” Harry stated and Ginny began to laugh.
“Seriously, you don't get it?” she asked in disbelief.
“No, it's just weird looking. I mean, it's fuzzy, but it has antlers…” Harry mumbled and Ginny and I laughed even harder.
“Harry, dear, look at it again,” Ginny prompted. He just kept shaking his head.
“St Dolf, even the name gives it away,” she further teased. “S, T, D, O, L, F?” Harry shook his head, even faster now. “St, do, lf,” she said, emphasising the sounds of the syllables.
“Harry, it's part stag, part dog—” I’d started when he finally understood.
“And part wolf, oh, yeah, now I get it,” Harry finished, blushing because he'd missed something so obvious. “But what I don't get, why is it wearing a monk's robe?”
“Ah, well, that's a little joke your mum and Remus added, for those of us who weren't as knowledgeable about Muggle history. Beer was originally made by monks in their monasteries and how they supported themselves,” I explained and both of them started to laugh. “We decided to create our own patron saint, one for magical beer. That's a wand poking out of his pocket there.”
“That is the perfect logo,” Ginny said with a giggle. I couldn't help but laugh along. It truly was.