One of those stories that just appear out of nowhere. More to come.

"A man walked into a bar..."
by Beth H.
(c) June 30, 2004

The door to the bar swung open, letting in a blast of chill December air, immediately followed by a young, dark-haired Wizard wrapped tightly in a cloak. The man stamped his feet in the entryway, freshly fallen snow slipping off his pair of scuffed dragonhide boots and onto the floor.

The bartender pushed his long auburn hair back from his face and sighed. With the last of the regulars pushing off home over an hour ago, he'd hoped that maybe he'd be able to close up early tonight, but no . . . no such luck.

He watched as the man squinted through a pair of strangely-familiar glasses and scanned the dingy, dark room. An ancient creature in the corner - whether hag or witch, it was impossible to tell - leered suggestively at the young man. The bartender fought back a grin when the man shuddered, less from the cold, no doubt, than from this unwelcome interest, but in the next instant, the woman turned her attention back to slowly stacking knuts, one on top of the other, as she'd been doing all night, and the man made his way up to the counter.

"Cold night," the man said, shivering a little as he removed his cloak and draped it over the worn-brown leather that cushioned the stool beside him. "I don't suppose you have any butterbeer."

The bartender raised his eyebrows, then shrugged and reached down below the counter and pulled out a bottle. "Not much call for butterbeer in a place like this."

"No, I don't suppose there is." The man reached out and took the bottle. "I must be feeling a little nostalgic. Thinking back to when . . . well, just remembering, you know? It's that time of year."

The bartender nodded, then started to put clean glasses away on the shelf behind him - by hand, not by magic.

"Five years," the man murmured.

"Excuse me?" The bartender turned back around

"Oh, sorry. Just . . . it's hard to believe it's been five years already. Sometimes it seems like it just happened."

"Voldemort's defeat?" the bartender asked.

The man started, bright green eyes widening at the mention of the name. "Yeah." He rubbed at his forehead, then swallowed the last of the butterbeer. "Him."

"Hard to forget, I'll bet."

The man looked up, then nodded. "It is. For everyone, of course, but for those of us who were there . . . well, I'm sure you read about it."

"Sure," the bartender said. "I read about it. So . . . you were there at the end, were you? Wasn't there some sort of reunion party at the Ministry tonight for the people who were there at the end? I was sure I read something about it in The Daily Prophet."

For a moment the man didn't answer, just plucked at a loose thread on his red and gold robes. "Yes, well, I guess it turns out I'm not really in the mood for a party. When I set out tonight, I thought it might be good for a laugh. I even dressed up like . . . anyway, in the end, I couldn't do it. Couldn't walk in there and face all those people slapping me on the back and wanting to talk over old times. You ever feel like that? Where you just want to . . . I don't know, hide out, I guess, even from your friends?"

"Yeah, I've felt that way," the bartender said with a smile. He watched as the old woman made her way to the door - the stack of knuts left behind on the table - and walked out into the cold night. "You found a good place to do it. To hide out, I mean. Not much of a chance you're going to run into one of your old friends here, is there?"

The man grinned. "You've got that right. I don't think any of them ever noticed this place existed." He reached into a pocket of his robes and put some coins on the bar, then wrapped his cloak around his shoulders. "I think it's time for me to head back out and face the elements. Thanks for the butterbeer . . . and for listening."

"No problem," the bartender said. "All part of the service."

The man smiled, then fastened the clasp on his cloak and headed toward the exit, turning around once to wave goodbye before walking out the door.

When the door to the now-empty bar slammed shut, the bartender pulled his wand out from his dark green robes and cast a locking spell, then walked over to the corner table and pocketed the knuts that had been left as a gratuity by the old woman.

He walked back behind the counter and touched the tip of his wand to his head until the glamour that had been masking his all-too-recognizable features dissipated. He ran his fingers through his still-messy black hair, then opened the one remaining bottle of buttlebeer and took a long drink, savoring its familiar warmth.

"Had to be another Gryffindor," he thought to himself as he started to climb the narrow back stairs to his small, cozy room above the bar, bottle still in hand. "Nobody else could stand the stuff after fifth year."

Comments, critiques, chit chat: beth-h @

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