Mrs. P.

Required: Active male companion for frail senior, all expenses covered, must be willing to travel. The ad was irresistible.

The reality was a Geritol driven hell.

 “That’s it!” Rory shoved his shaggy brown hair out of his eyes and slung the despised paisley oxygen carrier from one shoulder to the other “One more whine, one more complaint, and the first time she puts those knitting needles down, I’m shoving one through her eye.”

“Stop muttering Rory,” his elderly employer said. “You know I can’t hear very well. And do try to keep up. The pattern says I have to make this train.”

Rory glowered at the wispy gray bun bobbing ahead of him, and explained to himself, for the thousandth time, that for the travel and the fifty dollars a day, this really was worth it. Stepping up beside the walker, he reflexively flicked a glance over his employer. Walker, check, Oxygen check, god damn knitting needles, check. “We’re almost there Mrs. P. I’m sure we’ll be in time.”

“Don’t be so sure,” her voice, strong and authoritative, gave her away. She wasn’t even close to the ‘frail senior’ Rory had bargained for. “I’ve missed this train before, and that was back when my legs didn’t need these props.”

Her cloudy brown eyes lost focus for a second and Rory shivered, waiting for the inevitable flood of delusions. “I was there you know.” Mrs. P. started, “That’s where the pattern began. I’m just responsible for ending it.”

Ootching his charge forward a bit Rory pointed at the train station across the street.

“There we are, and with half an hour to spare.”

“Not enough time,” Mrs. P. protested. “I’m running out of time to make the pattern complete!”

“Come on now,” Rory said, manoeuvring the unwieldy walker and its irritable owner down the curb and into the crosswalk. “Let’s just get there and then we can work on the pattern.” Senile old bat, he thought gluing a prefabricated smile to his face. We’ve worked on ‘the pattern’, whatever the hell that is, in every train station on the continent. The old lady might be nuts but she has the funds to jet me around with her and I could never afford this kind of trip on my own.

The arching entrance to the train station dwarfed the odd couple as they slowly precessed down the dirty marble tiles and lined up at the ticket booth. “Tickets for Rory C.,” he said to the uninteresting girl behind the counter. “We ordered them for pickup here.” The girl looked up, gave them a quick once over, then, as always, smiled brightly at Mrs. P. It didn’t matter that he had spoken, or that the tickets were in his name, the ‘little old lady magic’ always shoved him into the background. “Here you go dear,” she said. Passing the tickets through the bars to Mrs. P. “You’ve got half an hour till train time.”

“What time is it Rory,” Mrs. P. quavered.

“10:35, we’ve got lots of time,” he said. “Let’s just have a sit over here and you can work on the pattern while we wait.”

The cheap plastic benches didn’t fit the old world architecture of the station but by the time Mrs. P. finished complaining about it, he had settled his charge on a bench, put down the portable oxygen satchel and handed her the knitting bag. Smiling absently, she dug out her yarn and some number nine needles from the knitting bag. “Number 9’s for here I think,” she murmured. “Yes, definitely 9’s and 10’s.”

Rory shook his head. It didn’t matter what country they were in, or which train station, the process was always the same. Arrive early, sit and listen to the infernal clicking of Mrs. P.’s needles until train time. Then drink tea and go back to the hotel. They never took the god-damned trains!

Right on schedule, at 10:55, Mrs. P. started in on him again. “Rory, have you been to get the tea yet? I’m parched!”

“In a few minutes Mrs. P.,” he said. “It’s almost train time.” He checked his watch, the clunky, second-hand one that Mrs. P. had given him when he started travelling with her. Its brown strap was worn and faded but she insisted that the watch kept perfect time and that all her ‘patterns’ were timed by that watch.

“I know dear,” Mrs. P. said, tucking her yarn and needles back into their floral carrying bag. “But I’m finished here, this pattern wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. We can head back to the hotel soon. I think I saw a tea shop just around the corner. Be a dear and get me a cup.”

With an insolent shrug, Rudy slouched away, glancing back as he turned the corner between platforms to make sure that Mrs. P. hadn’t wandered off.

Mrs. P. smoothed down the flowered pinafore dress, her brown eyes, even though they were hidden behind horn-rimmed glasses, all of a sudden didn’t seem quite so vacant. With a surreptitious glance towards the corner where Rory had disappeared she picked up the knitting bag and leaving behind the walker, the oxygen and the illusion of querulous Mrs. P., stepped through the opening between platforms 9 and 10 and onto the Platform 9 ¾.

The billows of steam and the oily tang of coal fires made her eyes water and her asthma act up. She should have brought her oxygen, but it would be unnecessary soon.  An elderly man, tall, and still well-built, moved towards her through the clouds of soot. “Did you finish your knitting?” he asked with a well remembered smile. “You laid down enough yarn around the continent that it would take an Italian pasta chef to untangle your trail.”

An impish grin lit up her face, allowing him just a glimpse of his old friend from Hogwarts dark days. “Did you bring it, Ginevra?” he asked looking around cautiously. “Brilliant place to meet by the way. Out in the open and surrounded by student chaos no one could ever say that we are trying to hide what we’re doing.”

Ginny smiled, opened the knitting bag and pulled out a hideous hand knitted sweater, red and blue, and obviously Weasley. “You never got one of these,” she said, “and you deserved one. The lining on this one is something special.”

Headmaster Longbottom inspected the sweater, only 4 or 5 sizes too large for him with a hand-picked N. embroidered on the front. “Are you sure about this Ginny? What about the Grandkids?”

Ginny shook her head. “We decided on this before Harry passed.” A frail hand rested, bird like, on Neville’s arm for just a moment then was gone. “We don’t want the kids to be responsible for guarding the cloak. There will always be people looking for it. Any one who needs the cloak, will have to find it, or earn it. The only remaining Hallow shouldn’t pass down like a pair of favourite shoes.”

“Luna sends her love,” Neville said. “She wanted to come and see you off, but her hip is still bad from falling out of that burrberry tree when she was chasing nargles last year.”

Ginny giggled, glad to know that some people, especially Luna, never changed. “I’m off now,” she said. “I’ll let myself be seen around London, then head to see some family in Scotland, that should put off any pursuit.”

“Will you be alright?” Neville’s voice was concerned. The smile and the voice he heard were Ginny Potter, but age wouldn’t be denied, and he knew this goodbye was probably, THE goodbye.

“Oh, I’ll be fine,” Ginny said. “Everything I need is in here.” She shook the extensible knitting bag, knocking over the books stacked inside. “I wish I could see that Rory Crabbe explaining to the police how he has so much unearned cash in his account, and why my walker and oxygen tank are sitting at the platform but I’m gone.”

Neville roared. “Ginny you didn’t!”

“Oh yes I did,” Ginny started to sparkle as the portkey in her knitting bag activated. “His dad was a git and I owed him one!”

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