Despite the date on the calendar, it could have been September. A cold rain washed down the windows, speaking of an early fall to an already exhaustingly hot summer. By all rights, it still was summer, but the heart wasn’t in it. Neither was mine nor that of the patrons. An old American tourist dipped into a third pint of butterbeer, slowly growing sleepier with every sip.
“When you’re finished up, the inn’s down the street,” I called, mind only on a dull ache in both of my feet. They weren’t as bad as in the thick of the summer—the cooling rain was good for that at least—but a full day of work wasn’t exactly easy on them, and I was not as light as I used to be.
I remember when I had started at years earlier, a young thing full of eagerness and life that labour laws and minimum Three Broomsticks wage didn’t mean all that much. I had been eager to begin a life that was all my own, and to make money that was equally mine.
“You show up at nine,” the grizzled old bartender had said to me, brandishing his grubby cloth like a wand. “And you leave when the lot of them leaves.” He had indicated to the group of chattering students squashed in around tables slurping tall glasses of butterbeer. Graduation had been the topic of choice, and I had so smugly smiled as I cleared away the empty glasses, remembering how recent my own graduation had been. After three years of travelling the globe, I was ready to settle down into a real job—something that didn’t include experimental potions or the feeding of cats whose owners could afford vacations. Mr. Tubman helped me with that much.
At first, I made decent tips from the tourists who could add a pretty, cheerful young bartender to their list of sights seen in Hogsmead, and the older locals took pleasure in the fact that I could remember their names. When Mr. Tubman retired, he sold me the bar, which I saw only as my ticket to a long, comfortable summer, where I could live out my prime with the promise of employment and shelter. I was caught up in the luster of life, and nothing could ever stop me.
Except the rain.
August was closing, sending us wayward children on our ways towards a cold-cheeked September, followed by an icy December during which we would year for just one last ray of sunlight. Would I regret time not spent in the sun? Would I regret my choices (because I’m told we always regret some choices)? Which ones?
As the door slammed shut behind the American, I gathered up his empty glasses.
I still had an autumn. Calming the battering desperation in my heart, I flipped the sign on the door to read Closed. It wasn’t the solstice yet, and not even summer’s flowery pastels were match for October’s red and gold.