Beta's Note: Please read Chapter 5 before reading this chapter since the two chapters have been posted simultaneously.
I felt like a complete idiot. I mean, really, I couldn't figure out that thing was part dog, part stag and part wolf! I looked at the design again, and it hit me like Grawp's tree-stump club. I could be a rather thick bloke.
The women stopped laughing finally, and I just rolled my eyes at them.
"Anyway," Seph said, and I was hoping she was changing the subject, "that chest, there, is full of books, which either were your parents' or contain pictures of them. I have your father's entire life covered there and your mum's from the point when we met. She really did take pictures of everything."
I looked down at the chest and immediately wanted to open it and begin digging through it. I cast my gaze to Seph, hoping I'd be able to, but from the set of her eyes, I knew I couldn't.
"Harry, I know you want to look, and I'm all for it, but there are some work-related things which really do need to be dealt with. Let's get through those, and then we can reminisce to your heart's content," she suggested. It was the responsible way to handle things, so I agreed. "Follow me."
She opened a door to the left of the front desk, and we were inside a room which looked like it was intended to be a pub, maybe, when it was finished.
"This will be the company's first tap room," she explained, "a place where folks can come and sample our brews. Well, most of them anyway. We have one which we won't be selling here."
"Why not?" Gin asked.
"Uh, it has some rather strong effects when consuming it," Seph replied, blushing.
"Oh, you have to tell us," my girlfriend gushed and Seph nervously giggled in response.
"You remember we made a brew for your parents' wedding, the Lover's Libation, at the Muggle brewery?" I nodded, thinking it was really nice my parents' friends had gone to the trouble of making something just for their special day. "Well, we also created one for their honeymoon, not like they needed any encouragement," she added, blushing even more wildly. "It's called Love's Lingering Luck, made from a Belgian White base with an aphrodisiac added. It's intended to be consumed in private, with your person of choice."
"I can see why you wouldn't want to serve it here," I commented, imagining what a mess it would be if patrons began getting amorous around each other.
"Yes, Sibéal had the hardest time convincing Sirius it only needed to be a mild aphrodisiac. Thankfully, when your dad returned to work after the honeymoon, he was able to tinker with the recipe enough so everyone was happy," she told us with a shake of her head.
"Yeah, we heard Sirius was quite popular with the ladies, no wonder he wanted a beer with seductive powers," Ginny joked, but Seph's face changed.
"Ah, was it perhaps Mr Lupin who shared with you?" she asked, with a hint of glee in her voice, and we nodded. "Well, it's not quite accurate. Remus liked to take the mickey out of Sirius and James for the way they attracted young women," she explained, almost sounding as if Remus was jealous or something. This wasn't the Remus I knew.
"Schoolgirls appreciated Sirius' good looks and charm, but it wasn't like he was bedding them or anything," she added, "he was just a natural flirt. He made every girl feel beautiful and special. He didn't really go out…" She drifted off and mumbled something that sounded like "being in love", but I couldn't quite tell.
"Anyway," Seph said, almost too loud for the empty room, "the tap room will be open mid-afternoon till eleven or so on weekdays, and until two on weekends. I need to find myself a bartender and right soon, since I hope to have it open for Octoberfest this year."
"Let me know if I can help you with that," I offered. "I know lots of people who are looking for work now."
"I'm sure you do," she answered with a grin. "Come on, I'll show the offices. One of the things I need you to do is select your furniture so it can be ordered. The rest of it is being delivered next week. Chairs for the lobby, things for the brewmaster's office and the like.
"What about you?" Ginny asked as we left the tap room and Seph lead us across the lobby area, the trunk still sitting there, unopened. I could feel it pulling me towards it, but I resisted. "Are you going to have an office here, or only at the other brewery?"
"I have an office here and have, in fact, been working here more than at MMB 1, as I've taken to referring to it. I ordered my furniture weeks ago," she explained. "We'll meet in my office."
The door to the office suite was on the right, and she pointed out the small front office where the brewmaster would be housed. She also told me she was having issues finding someone qualified for the position, stating they simply needed above-average potions ability, the skill to follow recipes and directions, and the willingness to learn. It sounded perfect to me. I wondered if I could be taught enough, in the short time we had, to take over the job. It was something I'd need to discuss with her. She also pointed out the private loo across the main hall from the small office.
Our offices were along the back, overlooking Bury Lake, where we drew our water. It was quite serene and very peaceful. Seph's office was much more posh than the one at MMB 1; the sofa in the corner, stationed so you could see out the windows, was covered in a soft brown leather, and there were two matching ottomans. Two wingback chairs in a deep purple completed the small sitting area. Her desk was huge, and it was accompanied by a large black rolling chair. Several bookshelves completed the space. She also had quite a few pictures scattered around: one of Walter and Kate with her at the other plant, one of Teddy Lupin on her lap, several with the rest of the Brewery founders. The one of her and my father caught my eye.
"Are you out with my dad in this picture?" I asked as I lifted it from off the bookshelf. They looked rather young, and both were wearing dress-robes, holding hands in what appeared to be a staged picture. Dad would say something and Seph would bite her lip and smile.
"Yes, actually, we were in our fourth year, and we had to go to the Pure-blood's Cotillion on New Year's Eve," she explained with an eye roll. "It wasn't as if your father and I were romantically involved with one another. He was like my third cousin once removed or something and he felt more like my brother than anything else. It was just easier for Sibéal and me to go with your dad or Sirius; it relieved us from having to accept an invitation from someone less… respectful."
"Oh," I stated and then realised I didn't know what she meant by that. "What do you mean, 'respectful'?"
"There were other boys — some of them were the sons of known Death Eaters — who tended to think that being out with a girl included some extracurricular perks. They'd take what they wanted, regardless of the girl's opinion on the matter. Neither of the Marauders would ever treat us in such a way."
"I can't believe it," Ginny said.
"For true pure-bloods, girls and women were — some still are — chattel, objects, things to be used as pawns for power or personal gratification," she sadly explained. "I almost believed the indoctrination. I nearly let myself be used to secure…" She stopped and took in a deep, shuddering breath. "Thankfully for Sibéal and me, we'd been friends with the guys since we were in nappies. We alternated who we were escorted by, just to keep it interesting, although we spent most of the night in a group."
"That's horrible," Ginny said, her face contorted in disgust.
"Well, the girls weren't much better," she explained as she nodded her head to Ginny's previous statement. "What the boys would take by force, girls would use potions and spells for. There's something despicable about getting your way via either route. Relationships were a minefield for us, which is why we clung to each other until we were forced apart." Persephone reached for the picture and traced the faint smiles on both faces.
"Is your being forced apart because of the arranged marriages?" Seph's face fell, turned ashen and she closed her eyes.
"You were speaking to your parents about me?" Her voice was flat as she inquired.
"We did," I confirmed, "but Mr Weasley was adamant that your story was yours alone to share." She seemed placated by what I said.
"Mum told us a little about your family," Ginny added. "We know she's friends with your sister and her husband. Dora — something?"
"Pandora," she very quietly corrected. "Your mum has probably spoken with my sister more recently than I have. I'm not exactly welcomed at family functions." We stood there quietly, and I wanted to ask her why, have her explain her history, why she was hiding, why she had to live as a Muggle, what legal matter caused her so much trouble. As I opened my mouth, Seph raised her head and her face was sternly set, her eyes blazing.
"I know you both have questions, and I promise I will explain things to you, but I can't, not yet. I need to know things are set between us before I tell you everything. Please, let me tell you my story, but let it be on my terms," she begged and Ginny went and hugged Seph.
"Don't worry about it," Ginny comforted her. "But also know, there isn't anything you could tell us which would change our opinion of you."
"I somehow doubt that's true," the older witch muttered as she let my girlfriend go. "Come on, sit down, let me get the furniture ordering scrolls out." Seph sat down behind her desk and opened one of the drawers. Ginny and I took the chairs across from her, looking at the array of pictures. She slid several scrolls over to us, Ginny grabbing them and beginning to look at desks and chairs. I honestly didn't care, as long as it had a good seat, anything would be fine with me. This was definitely something I'd be leaving to the ladies.
"I guess the first thing we need to decide is whether you're going to need one desk or two?" Seph asked.
"Uh, I think one will suffice," Ginny explained. "I won't be here all the time, at least not for the next year. I've made some plans for September on."
Persephone listened, and nodded in understanding. "I think you've made a wise choice," she stated. "Well, then, Harry, it would seem you need furniture. Have any preferences?"
"Uh, the desk doesn't wobble?" Both of them laughed at me. "Honestly, I can manage with just about anything. Grew up not having much, so I'm grateful for what I have now."
"That is certainly true," Seph stated. "The way your aunt and uncle treated you…" Seph clenched her lips together and I thought I heard her hiss. I felt the blood drain from my face and my mouth felt dry.
"What do you know about my living with the Dursleys?"
She hesitated, looking nervously around the room. "Harry, I know what was said at Order meetings," she explained. Seph turned away from us, looking out the mirror. "Molly and Minerva were incensed at how you were treated. We all heard about it."
"Oh, well, all right then," I mumbled. I really wanted to press her for more, for I was certain this wasn't the whole story. Seph, however, had all but begged us to let her tell us in her own time. I suppose I needed to trust she would. I lifted one of the scrolls; this one had rolling desk chairs on the front page.
"So, Gin, what do you think, blue or green?"
"You should know me better than that," she answered with a sly grin, "I'll always pick green for you, Harry."