13.11.2005 01:13 - The School Reunion
The banner hung from the roof of the scout hall, the large, crudely-painted letters upon it announcing the fact that here was a group of people who'd never got the hang of computers, much less printing out banners in 95pt Times New Roman on Word. Harry brushed his thinning hair back, revealing his ever-present scar on his forehead. "Hogwarts Reunion" said the banner, quite loudly. Someone had bewitched it to speak every time anyone looked at it. Harry looked round furtively, for a familiar face, yet hoped he wasn't recognised. He'd been in two minds about attending, ever since the owl had flown down the chimney and deposited the gold-fringed invitation neatly in his lap. Not that many people would recognise him these days. The drinking had taken a heavy toll on his once-athletic figure.
Christ, he'd thought, Hogwarts. Can't they just leave me alone? Hadn't he suffered enough during his stay in the clinic?
A woman was walking toward him. An incredibly good-looking, red-haired woman. She smiled at him. "Harry, isn't it? Harry Potter?" Harry started to smile, then remembered about his drinkers' teeth, and kept his mouth shut. The elegant redhead proffered a hand. "Don't you remember me? Ginny?"
Oh God. Ginny. After the way he'd treated her.
Harry gingerly took the proffered hand, and shook it. Ginny smiled, despite the rivers of sweat cascading off his palm, and the shivering - a side effect from the tablets. "O-of course I remember you, Ginny." How could he ever forget her? How could he ever forget his fat-headed pig-ignorant stupid teenage arrogance as he had told her to keep away from him, because she'd get hurt if she didn't, 'cos he was on a mission?
"Oh, God, yes, hi Ginny!" he blurted. "You're looking well!".
"You bloody fool, Harry." said an inner voice, not for the first time, "Look what you pissed away."
"So, er, how's the family?" he stuttered.
Ginny's smile faded a little. "Oh, so you didn't hear? Dad and Mum, well, they both stuck up for you during all the trouble, but then Dad took a particularly nasty curse in an attack from the Death Eaters. He's in the Hospital. He just - lies there. Mum visits him every day, but he never really acknowledges anyone, just.. lies there. When Percy heard about it, he had a nervous breakdown. He blames himself. He's alright, though, as long as he stays away from the fire-whiskey. His er.. partner helps keep him straight. He's a nice bloke, and so patient with Percy."
Harry wiped his sweaty hands on his greasy cord sports-jacket uneasily. "And Ron? And Hermione?" he said, then wished he hadn't. He knew what had happened there. He coughed, which made his spare-tyre wobble a bit.
Ginny frowned. "Well, if you must know, Ron won't hear your name mentioned. Everything was alright between him and Hermione, they'd gotten engaged and had found a little place together, and then she got it into her head to become an Auror. He was in the ministry, working for Dad, and so he er.. fiddled a bit with the exam results, because he didn't want her going off squaring up to the Deatheaters on her own. She found out, there was a huge row, in which your name was.. ah.. mentioned, and they split up. Quite badly, as a matter of fact, although the curse she put on Ron did prove to be quite erm.. lucrative for the new "Weasley's Wizard Wheeze" range of erm.. "Adult" products - once they'd found out the antidote, of course. Which took three years. Which Ron wasn't too happy about. He had to have a drain put in. Well, there was nowhere else for it to come out, you see, the er.. normal orifice being missing."
And now, came the question he'd been dreading. No, not the one about Ron's operation. "So, what have you been doing since I last saw you, Ginny?" he blurted out, and immediately wished he hadn't. The last time he'd seen Ginny was the night at Hogwarts when he'd broken up with her, and watched her tear-stained face looking through the window of the Express as it took her away from him.
"Well, Harry," Ginny smiled, in a sad sort of way, "After all the problems, I met a nice young wizard, and we got married. He's here somewhere - Neville Longbottom. I think he was in your year, wasn't he? Hang on a moment, I'll just go and get him."
Ginny wandered off toward a tall, handsome, confident-looking man in Auror's robes. It was too much for Harry, and he left as fast as his pudgy little legs could carry him.
Neville Longbottom - Of all people. The Boy Who Could Have Been! The Boy Who Could Have Been had turned out to have been The Man Who Could. Whilst Harry had been off on his half-arsed loner's quest into the middle of nowhere doing no-one any good, who had passed Auror school with top marks? Who had ruthlessly rooted out the Death-Eaters, cutting a swaith through them, leaving Harry spinning in his wake, sorting through the scorched debris? Who had gone one-on-one with Voldemort in a Sorceror's war that had left large areas of Salisbury Plain so magically-active that mudbloods would see apparitions every time they stepped on it, and so the whole area had been cordoned off, supposedly by the M.O.D.? Who, upon deliberately exhausting the magical potential of the battlefield, had gone one-on-one with He Whose Name Must Not Be Said, and physically kicked seven types of shit out of the Dark Lord, making damn sure that if he ever dared to come back to life, it would be in a world of pain?
Neville Longbottom, that's who, and what was worse, was that Dumbledore had known all along, and had encouraged Harry despite of it. Harry had been nothing more than a beard, to keep the heat off Neville, and he'd only realised it when he finally had raced into the inner circle of Stonehenge, after his broom crashed due to the manna being sucked out of the place by Neville's last, desperate spell, to find Neville standing bloodied, but triumphant, over the battered corpse of Voldemort.
And all that was left after that was the bitter taste of failure in the mouth of the Boy Who Lived. One that all the cheap spirits in the world had been unable to wash away.
The Boy Who Lived? The Boy Who Lived A Lie, more like.
Harry threw open the door to his little flat, and dived for the cupboard where he kept the gin. It wouldn't take much, combined with the tranquilisers he was on, to knock him senseless for the next forty-eight hours, if only to stop the voices. Then, perhaps, he could face the world again.