The sign outside the building read The Leaky Cauldron and the name reflected the inn quite well. It was dark outside; clouds covered the sky and only the bright full moon shown through them. These were the nights Aurelia Colton desperately missed.
She was three years out of school and still she could recall those memories as clear as crystal. Waiting up each night, hoping she’d see her friends in the morning, the heartache from knowing their pain, but not able to fully understand it and staring out the common room window, anxiously awaiting their return. Lily would often join her and they would sit by the fire and look into the flames in silence.
Aurelia shook her head and the memories were washed away by the rain that started pouring from the sky. She grabbed the collar of her coat and pulled it over her head before walking towards the back door of the building. Light flooded the ground as she opened the door and stepped inside. She gazed around the room and allowed her eyes to adjust to the lighting. When she could properly see once more, she looked to the back of the inn and spotted her cousin.
Many words had been used to describe Silvia Colton and dull was not one of them. Most in the bar wore older, darker robes, yet Silvia sat there clad in light blue, complementing the navy sheen in her ebony hair. Hearing the bell, she glanced at the door, caught her cousin’s eye and raised her glass of Firewhiskey in a toast. Aurelia’s face was emotionless as she walked to the table but soon broke into a smile before Silvia leapt from her seat and into a bone-cracking embrace.
The bartender walked over to his latest customer with a piece of parchment and a stubby quill.
“Will it be the usual then, Ms. Colton?”
“As always,” said Aurelia. “Thanks, Tom.”
As he left to collect the pint, a smirk played across Silvia’s face. She said, “Lia, I thought I taught you not to drink on an empty stomach.”
“You’re one to talk, Via.” Aurelia motioned to the Firewhiskey in her cousin’s hand and Silvia let out a chuckle.
“You were gone too long, Lia,” said Silvia. “I started to bloody well miss you.”
“It makes you wonder,” Aurelia teased.
The two women sat down at the table Silvia had saved and starred at one another for what seemed to be hours. They had not seen each other for an entire year and all they could do was look across the table at each other.
“Boy, aren’t you Miss Talkative tonight. Apparently, I’ve missed very little since I’ve been gone.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that. Just nothing monumental,” Silvia retorted. Not like the first time, she thought. Her hand almost subconsciously went to her left forearm.
“Monumental to you or me?” Aurelia asked.
“Either or. ’Sides, you aren’t telling me about Italy. I need some incentive.” Silvia’s eyes were alight with mischief.
Tom had swiftly passed by, setting down a glass of Old Ogden’s in front of Aurelia and moving on to another table. She slid her hand into the holder and brought it up to her lips, enjoying the warm, tingly taste it left in her mouth. Then she laughed suddenly and asked, “And you would like to hear about the boys or the beer first?”
She knew Silvia too well to begin a discussion with anything else. Her interests included boys, spells, drinking and boys. You didn’t even have to know her as Aurelia did. Her body language suggested she was out to have a good time and that she would, even if the night was spent with someone she hated.
“Aren’t they the same?” Silvia questioned with a knowing smile. “Maybe you met an Antonio or someone else came to visit?” She leaned up on the table playfully, demonstrating what she thought might have happened. Aurelia was, without a doubt, the subtler of the two about certain things. She always had been. But she still knew what and how to get what she wanted. She was always up to the task of tying down her cousin’s vibrant spirit.
Aurelia began her story, picking up from their last little reunion. Her trip to Italy took up a good portion of the hour. She explained her experiences with as little emotion as was possible, until Silvia pressured her into acting out certain scenes or using hand gestures. Via would smirk at the irrelevant events her cousin added as a side note, such being a drunk hitting on her (which happened numerous times) or Aurelia herself getting drunk. By the time she had finished, they were both howling with laughter, pounding the creaky table with their fists.
When they had regained their somber attitudes to a degree, Silvia started talking about what Aurelia had missed out on since she’d been away. There really wasn’t much to say, mostly because she was lying nearly the entire time, but her alibis were well-rehearsed and believable. She used work, drunkenness and dating as her main excuses for not having much to do, but as time went on, she developed new and more interesting instances.
“You’re enjoying watching me prattle on like a git, aren’t you?” Silvia said, seeing the smile on Aurelia’s face.
Then her smile turned into a smirk. “My dear cousin, how could you even think to say such vile things about me? I would never—” She stopped when she felt a peanut hit her forehead.
“Oh. Shut. It.” Silvia threw a peanut for each word she spoke. It was amazing how quickly they slipped back into their comfortable selves around one another. Aurelia had only just gotten back that day and already they had exchanged stories, or fabrications in Silvia’s case, and were back to how they had always been: teasing and playful, despite the meaning behind the words.
“So how much have you heard of what’s been going on ’round here?” Silvia asked, her eyes briefly taking a hardened gleam to them before softening.
“Only what was in the paper, and that’s only every few cities. I thought it would be cruel to hinder Taipa by making him deliver a Daily Prophet to me when I kept moving around,” Aurelia explained.
“So then you don’t know about the incidents,” Via began, continuing at her cousin’s already aggrieved expression. “Incidents with Muggles mostly. Some dustbins acting up on various witches and wizards; even a few carpets falling out of the sky. They’ve all been recalled and banned throughout Britain. It’s brooms, Floo or portkey for those under Apparition age now.”
“More for my business, I suppose,” said Aurelia softly. “What about the Muggle incidents?”
“There’ve been about three attacks since your last homecoming,” Silvia explained. Three wasn’t a bad number, considering the previous attacks had totaled to seven. “One attack was at a park just outside Dover on a couple. Prophet thinks it was Death Eaters, but it could have been anything. The Muggles were so confused and scared they didn’t know what they saw. Another was in Sheffield on an old man and the last was right here in London. She was the sister of Benjy Fenwick, Muggle-born wizard. No one knows if it was coincidence or if You-Know-Who actually has it in for him.”
“Benjy Fenwick? Targeted by You-Know-Who? I thought he was a pacifist,” Aurelia admitted, slightly confused.
“I thought so too, but apparently not. Ministry couldn’t even release specific details to the Prophet because of how grisly it was in nature. It is a wonder the poor chit wasn’t killed,” Silvia divulged. “It makes me loathe my job sometimes, reading reports like that from the Aurors.” Not to mention all the yawns that come from The Wizengamot, she thought. Whoever dictates their reports takes all the fun out of law enforcement.
“And you said nothing monumental happened while I was away,” Aurelia chastised.
“Depends on how you look at things I guess. I tend to be looking more for the things of the fun and exciting variety. Some people, such as yourself, tend to want the serious and depressing news. You, luv, are far more somber than you used to be. I blame the traveling; it made you mature and business-like,” Silvia said, taking her finger away from her chin where she had been pretending to think.
Lia raised an eyebrow in response. “Is that so? I can’t say you, Miss Colton, have stayed the same. You have a good albeit boring job. Somehow you still keep the boys and booze lifestyle. You have a job at the Ministry…”
“You mentioned that one already,” Via pointed out.
“Bugger. Maybe you haven’t changed.” Aurelia laughed.
Silvia joined in. “Besides the whole worldly aspect, you really haven’t changed. Otherwise you’re still little Lia Colton, the cousin I pushed into the fish pond on her seventh birthday.”
“Now isn’t that a pleasant memory,” Aurelia said, smirking. “You ruined a perfectly good sundress on five minutes of non-stop laughter. I hope you were proud of yourself. You know the reason I don’t celebrate my birthday anymore is because of you.” Silvia was rolling out of her chair by this time and Aurelia tried unsuccessfully to keep a straight face. “Speaking of memories, I find it oddly comical that we still replay the exact same thing that happened when we got off the train first year at school every time we meet.”
“Because it keeps us youthful and childish,” Silvia explained getting back onto her chair. “Not to mention we were absolutely adorable when we were eleven.”
“And we’re not adorable now?” said Lia with a faked stricken expression.
“Now we’re just drop dead sexy. There’s no denying it, sweetheart. Besides, two grown women such as ourselves hugging like that…it’s practically every git’s dream. We have got to please the masses once in a while. ’Sides, its tradition,” Silvia said with a wicked grin.
“Uh-huh. We kept this one out of the hundreds we’ve made,” Aurelia replied.
Silvia’s grin widened. “What? Would you rather have kept the one where we dance in the rain during thunderstorms or the one where we skinny-dip in the pool every time we stay at a hotel? Actually both of those were wizard traditions. Why’d you veto them?”
“Perhaps because they are far too immature. Do you even realize how idiotic we were as kids? I mean, we’re in our twenties now and we’ve almost outgrown those things. Please, Via, you have to let them go.” Aurelia feigned indifference.
“Where is the fun in that, dear Aurelia? We had some good times when we were children. I happen to think we were smarter then. Young and full of innocence,” Silvia said, somewhat wistfully.
“Innocent? Via, you were never innocent. Not even as a first year…” Aurelia said reminiscently.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m immoral and demeaning to women,” Silvia waved it off with her hand, having heard it all before. She looked down at her watch and noticed the time. They had spent nearly four hours together sitting, talking, and drinking. “Bugger. Lia, luv, we have to cut this short. I have work in the morning, as I’m sure you do as well.”
The two women stood up, their chairs scrapping across the floor loudly. Downing the last of their drinks, they looked to one another. Neither wanted to leave each other again but both knew they would have to sooner or later. They had separate lives.
Aurelia walked towards Silvia. “How ’bout we end this how it began?”
“I like the way you think, cuz,” Silvia replied.
She caught Aurelia in a giant bear hug and laughed as they both tried to squeeze each other as hard as possible. Before either could say ‘uncle’, they had both backed off with smiles on their faces.
“I’ll catch you around, Lia. Send an owl anytime you want to meet. I’ll do the same,” said Silvia, walking to the door alongside Aurelia.
“It’s been a blast,” said Lia at last.
Silvia walked away into the rain not bothering to pull the hood of her cloak up. There wasn’t a point when she could just use a Drying Charm once she got home. She thought about how different Aurelia and herself were. There were things they didn’t know about each other’s lives since they left Hogwarts, even while they were there. And frankly, Silvia was glad. She didn’t want her cousin to know what she’d done in her life, what she was. She couldn’t say there were regrets. She tended to enjoy it, even though she enjoyed absolutely everything. Turning around, she saw Aurelia still standing in the alley watching her leave. Silvia blew a kiss, turned back around and with a POP Apparated mid-stride.