Hope rummaged through her wardrobe, randomly rejecting possible outfits. “Too hot,” she muttered as a pair of jeans went to the floor. “Too sexy!” A silk halter neck top joined the growing pile.
Matthew chuckled behind her, already dressed and ready in a cream shirt and linen slacks. “Thus speaks the woman who could make sackcloth and ashes look hot and sexy.”
“Don’t mention sackcloth and ashes.” Hope grimaced. “I’d probably have been wearing them to this day if Mum hadn’t managed to calm Dad down!”
“I always knew there was a good reason why I liked your mum.”
Hope finally selected a light cotton sundress. “She likes you, too, but I would watch your back today. She’s mentioned daffodils at least three times this week, so I think you’re in for some heavy-duty teasing. Consider it a sort of rite of passage.”
* * *
As they walked into the Leaky Cauldron arm-in-arm, Hope revelled in the sheer joy of being able to do this now. Matthew was hers, and she wanted everyone to know.
She was secretly delighted that the two of them had been invited to join this family day out in Diagon Alley, but for the sake of appearances she grumbled about “Annoying little sisters, insisting I give up my day off to come and buy Owls!”
Polite greetings were exchanged. As Matthew brushed a kiss on Ginny’s proffered cheek, she murmured, “Hullo, Matthew. Nice shirt, dear. Hope wears one just like that as a nightshirt.” Hope whispered in his ear as he sat down, “What did I tell you?”
Holly was fidgeting with impatience while the adults finished their drinks, chatting about Hope’s latest Auror mission, and Matthew’s training at St Mungo’s. Bored with any conversation that didn’t include Hogwarts, or Quidditch, she started reading through her list again. “Robes, spell books, cauldron, potion supplies, quills, parchment, wand… Oh.” She turned to look Hope straight in the eyes. “And an owl!”
Hope put on a stern face. “I don’t think you really earned that owl, Squidge. If you can’t complete Hogwarts’ assignments better than that, you’ll be on extra homework in no time!”
Holly was unruffled. “All you said was to keep Mum and Dad talking, which I did. You didn’t say anything about keeping your boyfriend secret.”
Matthew laughed and squeezed her hand. “She’s got you there, love. Time to pay up with good grace.”
* * *
A snatch of conversation from the next table drifted across their laughter. “I’m so sorry I’m late, dear. I just couldn’t get away from the meeting.”
“Well, everybody else has gone through now, and I don’t know how we get in to this Diagon Alley place, or find a platform nine and three-quarters at King’s Cross!”
Hope watched her father go over to introduce himself. “I hope you don’t mind, but I couldn’t help overhearing. Is this your first visit to the magical world?”
“Yes, we were supposed to meet someone from Hogwarts, but we got held up. I’m Vincent Mayer.” Mr Mayer was an imposing black man with an air of quiet authority, which reminded Hope of Kingsley Shacklebolt. “My wife Sophie, and our twins Simon and Chelsea.”
Mrs Mayer was a petite blonde, with a relaxed elegant poise. While her father was completing the introductions, Hope was thinking there was something vaguely familiar about her, but it was Matthew who recognised her. “Of course! Sophie Mayer, the actress!”
Mrs Mayer’s laugh was easy and natural. “These days, more Sophie Mayer: wife and mother. I’m virtually retired now.”
It was quickly agreed that they would take the Mayer’s with them, and help them get all their supplies.
Holly was delighted to have someone her own age to talk to, and gave the twins a constant commentary about her favourite shops, and the things they could look forward to at Hogwarts. Her auburn hair shimmered in the sunlight, and her eyes were almost glowing amber in her excited, smiling face.
The twins were gazing around with awestruck expressions. The further they went, the more Simon’s gaze rested on Holly, but it remained awestruck. Hope felt Matthew nudge her in the ribs. “I think Holly has gained an admirer.”
“Shush, Matt. They’re only eleven.”
“So were we, and I was still smitten at first sight!” His voice took on a teasing tone. “And, after all, Holly is the pretty one of your family.”
Hope smiled at him sweetly. “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch that.” She delivered a swift kick to the ankle before grabbing Holly’s hand. She dragged her laughing into Madam Malkin’s before Matthew could retaliate.
* * *
Vincent Mayer turned out to be a senior police officer, and he and Harry were soon deep in conversation, discussing the differences in policing between the Muggle and magical worlds. They started when a figure jumped out, calling, “Can I get a picture? Just one for the ‘New Year at Hogwarts’ edition!”
Ginny and Sophie groaned in unison. “Oh, no. Photographers.” They turned to one another and gasped, again in perfect unison. “You, too!” They were soon laughing together, swapping tales of being caught in fashion disasters by lurking photographers.
It turned out they both had a passion for gardening, and the discussion moved on to their favourite flowers. Ginny had a wicked gleam in her eyes. “Matthew’s a keen gardener, too. He seemed to really like my daffodils this year, and he has a unique way of digging flower beds!”
Hope felt her face flame. “Mu-um,” she wailed.
Innocent brown eyes turned on her. “What, dear, did I say something wrong?”
* * *
Finally Holly wouldn’t be denied any longer, and they made their way to Eeylops Owl Emporium. She rejected several large and impressive birds before settling on a pale Tawny. Chelsea was almost as excited as Holly. “Oh, look, he matches the colour of your eyes. Isn’t he gorgeous, Simon?”
Simon breathed, “Yeah, gorgeous,” but he wasn’t looking at the Owl. He bumped into a cage, sending it clattering to the ground.
Matthew was suppressing a grin. “See. I told you. At least it wasn’t a suit of armour!”
* * *
The pile of parcels was now growing to alarming proportions, so Harry suggested a break at Fortescue’s. The Potter women’s passion for ice cream was soon apparent in a collection of appreciative sighs. Even Holly was a picture of rapt attention as she devoured her favourite Chocolate Sundae.
Hope felt Matthew lean in conspiratorially. “Do you Potter girls take special classes or something?”
“What are you talking about?” she enquired carelessly, still blissfully savouring her strawberry ice cream.
Matthew’s whisper tickled her ear deliciously. “Give Holly a few years, and she’ll be just as good as you at turning the simple act of eating an ice cream, into a form of seduction.”
Holly was leaning back in her chair, eyes half-closed, slowly licking her lips. Matthew hadn’t counted on her sharp hearing though. “Mum, what’s ‘seduction’?”
Now it was Ginny’s turn to whisper into her younger daughter’s ear. As she leaned back Holly pulled a horrified face and clapped her hands to her ears. “Ew! Don’wannaknow!” She glared balefully at Hope. “I don’t want to make anyone kiss me, thank you very much!” But she turned pink as she caught Simon’s eye.
* * *
Hope relaxed back into her chair, thankful for the shade from Fortescue’s colourful awnings. It was wonderful to feel that everything was just so… right… at last.
Her dad was relaxed and happy, having a whale of a time chatting with Mr Mayer. So much so that diaries were now being consulted to find a free weekend for the Mayers to visit the Potters in Hogsmeade.
Also, her mum was being… well, Mum: but with a vengeance! Matthew had been despatched into the shop to collect another round of drinks, but not without being advised to “use the door, Matthew. So much less painful than windows!”
Matthew had grinned back at her, realising that all the teasing meant that he was being welcomed as a member of the family. “Nothing like as much fun though, Mrs Potter!”
While Matthew was gone, Hope took the time to study her little sister, realising with a start that Matt was quite right about her being the pretty one. Their mother’s fine bone structure was already making itself evident in Holly’s face, and she was never going to have to wrestle her hair into submission, unlike Hope’s own rebellious locks. Add those captivating eyes into the equation, and it was obvious Holly was going to be a real heartbreaker as she grew up. ‘Maybe by next year,’ Hope thought, ‘I’d better give her a little sister-to-sister talk.’ Undoubtedly, their mum would cover the bases of sex (Hope shuddered inwardly at the memory of Mum’s ‘talk’ to her thirteen-year-old self), quite graphically and at length, but relationships were a different matter entirely. Not everybody could be a ‘one-man-girl’ after all, and Hope had a few hard-earned lessons about recognizing other people’s feelings to pass on!
* * *
Mindful that the afternoon was wearing on, and the rest of the adults were still engrossed in their social calendars, Matthew suggested that he and Hope could take the children to get their wands.
Ginny obviously couldn’t resist. “That would be great, Matthew. Just make sure you don’t lose your own wand while you’re doing it!”
For Simon and Chelsea, this was their first real introduction to magic. Mr Ollivander was kindness personified, patiently explaining to the two Muggle-borns how wands were made, and how important it was to make a correct match, especially for a first wand.
Chelsea proved easy to match, and the second wand she tried produced a satisfying shower of bright, colourful sparks. “Ah, very good, Miss Mayer,” Ollivander had beamed. “Yew, twelve inches with a core of Phoenix feather. A very flexible and powerful wand. I shall expect good things from you!”
Simon and Holly were a completely different story, though. Wand after wand were tried and rejected. Both of them could consistently produce sparks, but they were pale and washed-out looking.
Hope was confused. “I can’t understand it. I know for a fact that Holly has been pinching family wands for years, and doing spell work with all of them.”
Holly had the grace to look abashed at this.
“Yes, well,” Mr Ollivander looked thoughtful, “it is one thing to use another wand occasionally, but it is an entirely different thing to find one’s own, proper wand. The wand chooses the wizard, or witch, after all!”
He began rummaging through more boxes before his eyes alighted on one secreted on a high shelf right at the back of the store. “Hmm, I wonder…”
From the thick layer of dust on the box, it was obvious that the two wands it contained were very old. Mr Ollivander considered the two wands carefully for some time before passing one to Simon. “Here, try this.”
Simon sighed with relief at the vibrant colours he was able to produce. “I’d been beginning to wonder if there was something wrong with me!”
“No, no. Perseverance is all it takes, Mr Mayer. A valuable lesson for us all.”
The final wand was passed to Holly. The display of sparks she produced was almost dazzling in its intensity.
Mr Ollivander looked at the two children appraisingly. “Well, well, well. Finally these wands have found their homes! They were made by my father, many years ago. What you have there, Mr Mayer, is Holly, eleven inches, with a core of mermaid hair: and for Miss Potter, Silver Birch, again eleven inches, with a core of mermaid scale!”
His voice became cheerful again. “Now, those are quite volatile wands, so I think we should find you both spares. Let me see.” He picked a couple of wands from the previous pile of discards. “Miss Potter, try this again; Copper Beech and Unicorn hair should be compatible, now. And, for Mr Mayer, I think Hawthorn and Dragon Heartstring.”
Hope’s mouth had dropped open on hearing about the mermaid hair and scale cores, and dropped even further on hearing Mr Ollivander suggest spares. This was all unheard of!
As they were leaving the shop she exclaimed, “Oh, I need some wand polish. Carry on without me, I’ll catch you up later.” Matthew opened his mouth, probably about to remind her that there was an almost-new tub of polish sitting in her underwear drawer, but she silenced him with a quick shake of her head. She wanted to see Mr Ollivander without the children around, and she certainly didn’t want the complication of Holly enquiring why Matthew would go rummaging through her knickers!
* * *
Mr Ollivander was scratching away on some parchment, still surrounded by wands and boxes. He looked carefully at Hope. “I was just writing to your father, and to Hogwarts. I would like to examine those wands again in a year’s time, and be informed if anything unusual happens with them. They are irreplaceable, you know.”
Hope’s Auror instincts were on high alert. “There’s more to it than that, isn’t there, Mr Ollivander? I think you should tell me about those wands.”
Mr Ollivander sighed, looking troubled. “My father was a bit of a mystic, and a romantic old fool in many ways. I remember watching him make those wands. I was only a small boy at the time, and it was a rare privilege for me to be allowed into his workshop. They are the only wands I have ever known to be given names, both individually and as a pair.” He sighed again. “I don’t know if we should make anything of it, or dismiss it as the flight of fancy of an old man, but he named those wands ‘Ra’ and ‘Osiris’ – Miss Potter’s and Mr Mayer’s respectively.”
Hope breathed, “The Egyptian gods of the sun and the underworld.”
Mr Ollivander’s eyes met hers. “And, by extension, light and dark, life and… the afterlife.”
‘You were going to say death then, weren’t you?’ Hope thought, but kept it to herself.
“Collectively, he called them ‘The wands of Destiny’. I can still remember the look in his eyes as he said to me, ‘One day, my son, these wands will be needed to save the World’.”
* * *
As Hope walked slowly back from the shop towards Fortescue’s she thought bitterly. ‘Why do things like this always have to happen to my family?’