Another nineteen years later.
Ron Weasley, now 56, stood patiently in the saloon of The Leaky Cauldron, waiting for his opponent. He checked the tip of his weapon of choice with his finger; good and sharp. He eyed the door with the air of a man who had all day, because he did for this. He always had time for this.
He reached over to the bar and picked up his pint of ale. Gone were the days when butterbeer was his drink, and as Ron looked down at the generous paunch residing in his midsection, he reflected on his penchant for real ale. Hermione and the children sometimes said that he was getting fat, but Ron merely shrugged this thought off and took another gulp.
‘You sure he’s coming, Ron?’ asked a nearby patron.
‘He’s coming,’ replied Ron, sagely, as he wiped the ale’s foam from his greying ginger moustache. ‘He knows better than to skip out on this.’
‘Might be busy though,’ said the patron, thoughtfully. ‘Busy job, that.’
‘He’ll be here,’ said Ron. He smiled to himself as he thought about all of his work that he’d left behind that day to come down to the Leaky Cauldron. It could wait. It would wait.
This was important.
Ron drained the last of his drink and set the tankard back down on the bar. As he turned back round to face the door to the saloon he could see through the frosted glass a figure approaching. Ron grinned to himself. He recognised it immediately.
Let battle commence, he thought.
The door was opened by a small, nervous-looking man who was fussing over another, more calm-looking person. All heads turned as the pair entered the saloon; and a few of the newer guests to the Leaky Cauldron stood rooted to the spot, their mouths agape.
‘By me! It’s the Minister for Magic!’
‘Alright, alright. Stand back, all of you,’ cried the smaller man, as he swept the room with a suspicious glare. ‘This is official Ministry business.’
‘Oh do stop it, Creevey,’ said the Minister. ‘I’ve told you a hundred times that I’m off duty.’
‘But sir!’ spluttered Creevey. ‘The Minister for Magic can’t go… off duty!’
‘Watch me.’ The Minister unbuckled his cloak and handed it to Creevey, who took it as if it were the Holy Grail. The Minister then walked straight up to Ron Weasley and shook him vigorously by the hand.
‘Afternoon, Ron,’ he said, cheerily.
‘Alright, Harry?’ said Ron, smiling. ‘The usual?’
‘Don’t mind if I do.’
Harry Potter, Minister for Magic, eased himself on to a bar stool and let out a contented sigh. He looked around the saloon and saw the people looking at him. He didn’t mind. Not really. It used to bother him, when he was a lad, but then again, he thought dryly to himself, what didn’t bother me back then? He knew that some of the assembled drinkers would be staring at him because he was Minister for Magic, but he also knew that some of them, the older ones, would be staring at him because of the other thing.
‘Here you go, mate,’ said Ron, handing Harry a frothy pint of ale.
‘Mate?’ spat Creevey in disbelief. ‘Mate? You don’t refer to the Minister for Magic as “mate”!’
Harry and Ron exchanged a significant look. Ron rolled his eyes and Harry sighed and turned to his assistant.
‘Thank you, Creevey, you’re dismissed.’
‘Take the afternoon off. Go and visit your Dad or something. Tell him I said hi.’
‘Creevey.’ Harry’s tone had a definite air of finality about it. He didn’t really like bossing people around, but he had to live with it a little bit. Being Minister for Magic meant that people expected you to be bossy. He’d held out against the job for as long as he could, which made him think of Dumbledore and how he’d managed to avoid the position, but there just came a time when there really wasn’t anyone better for the job, so Harry took it. He’d experienced firsthand what a mess the wrong person in the wrong job could do, so he reluctantly agreed.
Ginny had been delighted, of course. Not because she’d had any particular desires about being a politician’s wife (she hated it, as a matter of fact), but his appointment to the post of Minister had gotten him out of the Auror Office. Even with the downfall of Lord Voldemort all those years ago – Harry marvelled briefly at the fact that it was nearly forty years since the Battle for Hogwarts – dark magic still existed in the world, as did those who wanted to use it and profit by it. Fortunately, no one had ever tried to rise to Voldemort-like power, but being an Auror was still a dangerous job. So Ginny was definitely pleased when he told her that he’d no longer be spending his nights staking out dark wizarding hot-spots.
Creevey stood still for a moment, looking like a lost lamb in a den of wolves. He swallowed and fretted internally over the litany of things that could go awry by leaving the Minister alone in such a place. However, Creevey would rather jump in front of the Hogwarts Express than defy his employer. He let out a forlorn sigh, hung Harry’s cloak on a nearby hook with overt reverence, and reluctantly left the pub.
‘I don’t know how you stand it,’ said Ron, eyeing the door that Creevey had left by. ‘It’d drive me mad having him scampering around me all day like that.’
‘Oh he’s alright,’ said Harry. ‘He’s just a little…over enthusiastic, that’s all.’
‘Just like his Dad was when he started at school. You remember?’
‘Do I ever? That bloody camera of his.’
Harry and Ron laughed. It felt good to remember the old days. Some of them, at least. Both Harry and Ron had memories that they clung to out of respect but wished weren’t real, but practically every magical citizen of their age was the same. The peace and freedom that the wizarding world had enjoyed for the last few decades had not come cheap. Ron thought of his late brother Fred. Harry thought of Dobby, of Snape, of Dumbledore. All gone in the name of the fight. All heroes in their way.
A moment’s silence seemed to stretch out before them, and as they caught eyes, they both shook themselves free of their reverie.
‘So, anyway. How’s Ginny?’ asked Ron. ‘Don’t see her much these days, shame to say, what with work and all that.’
‘Oh she’s fine. She sends her love, of course. And Hermione? How’s she doing?’
‘Correcting me every chance she gets, as always,’ said Ron, grinning. Harry smiled warmly at this. Keep your Gringott’s vaults stuffed with gold, he thought. Hang the fame and the legacy. This was what made life worth living: discussing the people you loved most in the world with your best friend. There truly was no greater magic.
‘Some things never change, eh?’ said Harry, still smiling. They both took from their drinks again, enjoying the simple pleasure of one another’s company.
‘Right,’ said Ron, putting his empty tankard down on the bar with authority. ‘You ready to get beaten again?’
‘Hah! That last time was a fluke!’
‘You wish, four-eyes.’
‘Bring it on, ging.’
Both men laughed heartily, Harry slapping Ron on the back as if they were both eleven again. Creevey would have had a heart attack if he’d heard Ron call the Minister for Magic “four-eyes”, but Harry loved it. In here, in this cosy little pub with his oldest and dearest friend, he wasn’t Harry Potter, Minister for Magic. He wasn’t even Harry Potter, the Boy who Lived. He was just Harry.
‘Wands away,’ said Ron, with mock pomp and circumstance.
‘Let battle commence,’ said Harry with a grin.
Ron drew back and threw his first in their latest game of darts. He’d never heard of the Muggle game before they were clearing out his late father’s shed not long after his passing. It had been sitting on a shelf with the darts poking out of it at various angles, looking curious and inviting. Harry had explained that darts was a common Muggle pub game and that was it. This now became their thing, something that Harry and Ron did together. Away from the pressures of work, away from the despairing looks from both of their wives. Once a month they met, played darts, drank too much ale and laughed together like silly schoolboys.
There truly was no greater magic.