A/N: I was inspired to write this fic after reading Neil Gaiman's short story "Murder Mystery".
Looking back on it now, I should have known something was going to happen.
the signs were there. I had to work late, and nobody else did. None of
my coworkers stayed behind. My drinking buddies were all out doing
"family" things. When I finally made it to the square I knew nobody who
was there. The cute little witch I had met the night before wasn't
there either. Pity.
Honestly, I should have gone home. That's
what I normally would have done. But I didn't. Instead, I went to the
bar alone. It wasn't something I would normally do, mind you. In the
thirty-plus years since, I have never done it again. I should have
The weirdness didn't stop there, either. When I got to
the bar, it was dead. Not quiet, not subdued, dead. There was only one
other patron in the entire bar, and he was in the back corner. Carl,
the bartender, looked shocked that I showed up. It was that dead.
"Nate! What in blazes? Shouldn't you be home?" he asked as I stepped up to the bar.
"You're a funny man, Carl. My usual, please."
funny that. We're out," he explained. This should have been my first
real clue. Carl was never out of the Muggle spirit I had acquired a
taste for, a single-malt hundred-proof Kentucky Bourbon. It wasn't all
that common in Wizard bars, but it was very common in Muggle bars and
stores, so it was very easy to obtain.
"What do you mean, you're out?" I asked him.
distiller got snowed out. A freak storm hit them a while back. They
can't get trucks in or out to deliver the goods. The supply dried up
fast; all the Muggle bars stocked up on it. I'm sorry, Nate."
could tell Carl was being serious, which really surprised me. At first
I thought he was pulling my leg, but I knew then it was no joke.
know, this is really turning out to be a crappy night. It seems I have
nobody to hang out with… well, except you, of course… and now that I'm
here, I can't even enjoy my favorite poison. Now what am I going to
I don't know how he did it, but
the guy who had been setting in the back booth was now sitting right
next to me. He was wearing an expensive looking black cloak outlined in
green silk. Little bits of green silk thread had been woven into the
black fabric, giving it an odd sparkle. I didn't hear a sound as he
approached and sat down. Neither did Carl, apparently; as soon as the
man had uttered the word, Carl twitched, obviously startled.
"Hey! Don'cha know it's rude to sneak up on people like that?" Carl complained to our stealthy visitor.
"Sorry about that," the man said gently. "I didn't mean to be so quiet. I'll try to make more noise next time."
man had an English accent. There was something else about the man's
voice that caught my attention immediately, but I didn't know what it
was at the time. The man's apology seemed to have satisfied Carl who
"Please, and one for Nate here. It was Nate, wasn't it?"
man didn't look my way when he spoke. I figured he was blind or
something, and not wanting to be rude I didn't press the issue.
"Yeah, that's right. I didn't get your name."
The man paused a moment. "No, you didn't."
it had been any other man I probably would have been upset, but there
was something in the way the man said these words that had me feeling
sad for him all of a sudden. It was if the man had put a decade of pain
and suffering into these scant few words. Instead of protesting, I sat
quietly at the bar waiting for my whisky. It wasn't long before Carl
returned with the drinks.
"Here we are; two glasses of the finest Firewhisky this side of the Atlantic."
stuff in the glass looked amazing. I had heard of Firewhisky but I had
never seen it, much less tasted it before. The liquid in the glass was
clear, but it moved, and when it did it refracted the light. It was as
if the whisky was actually liquid diamond. I could make out faint wisps
of something coming off the surface of the drink. As I watched, I
realized I was seeing very faint flames of different colors. I found it
so fascinating that I hesitated to drink it.
The man took his
glass and looked at it for a moment. Well, okay, I couldn't tell if he
was looking at it since he had his hood up and all, but I figured that
was what he was doing. He then said "Cheers" and downed the entire
glass in one shot. He set the glass down on the bar hard and hung his
head down. As he did this, I could feel him wince.
Now, when I
say I could feel him, it wasn't like when you see one of your friends
slam their finger in a door, and you grab your own finger and say
"ouch" to yourself. I mean, I felt him wince. It was like
feeling heat coming off of a torch, only I didn't feel heat, I felt
wince. I don't know how better to explain it, so I won't try.
The man groaned and exhaled.
"You were absolutely right, Mr. Carl. That is excellent Firewhisky. Another, please."
now," Carl began. "You seem like a nice fella' and all, but this stuff
is pretty strong, and it ain't cheap. You sure you want to be pressing
Slowly, the man pulled out a pouch and, one by one, placed ten Galleons on the counter.
"That be enough to cover it?" he asked.
took the Galleons and put them in his money bin. He then graciously
poured the man another round. This time the man took a small sip and
put the glass down carefully.
"You should try your Firewhisky,
Nate," the man said. "But be careful: from what I know of Muggle
alcohol, this stuff has much more of a kick."
Not wanting to
be rude, and for some reason I was trying to be very polite that night,
I carefully grasped my glass and picked it up. It was surprisingly
cool. I put the glass to my lips and took a tentative sip. At first it
was sweet and aromatic and tasted of summer mornings and soft breezes.
That didn't last long: as I swallowed it, it went down like pure grain
alcohol, and it burned through me like fire. I almost dropped my glass
but managed to get it down without spilling it. Once the fire had
subsided, I noticed my entire mouth felt like I had been sucking on a
spearmint candy for an hour. It was the most amazing experience I had
ever had drinking.
I may have imagined it, but I think I actually heard the man chuckle.
"Never had Firewhisky before, have ya, Nate?" Carl asked, also amused.
"No, and now I wish I had tried it sooner. That is amazing stuff."
"Well, this calls for a celebration!" Carl exclaimed. He reached under the bar and brought up a box of cigars.
"Now Carl, you know I quit those years ago."
"I know, but this is a special occasion, and I know how you like those special Cuban ones."
I stared at Carl in shock. "You didn't!"
just smiled and pulled out one for me. He cut off the end and handed it
to me like it was some kind of prize. I took it from him and put it
under my nose, letting the musky aroma fill my nostrils. I exhaled
slowly and put the cigar in my mouth, fumbling for a match.
"Wouldn't you know it, I don't have match. Or a lighter for that matter."
Carl fumbled around the bar for a few moments, then said, "I don't believe this, neither do I."
do you mean?" I asked him indignantly, trying to speak clearly with the
cigar in my mouth. "You bought a whole box of Cuban cigars and you
didn't think to get a pack of matches?"
I should have known
this was another sign. Not that it mattered anyway. The mysterious
events of the night were about to converge on this little bar, and the
trumpet heralding the start of the convergence was just about to sound.
man pulled his hand out from under his cloak and waved it casually in
my direction. At once, a flame appeared at the end of my cigar, then
went out, leaving the cigar perfectly lit.
Now; I've been
around magic since I was born. I've seen and experienced many things in
my years – from my time in Wizarding School all the way to the present
day. I've only seen wandless magic twice; once during a special
demonstration given at an experimental magic symposium at the
university, and once in a moving picture book about an ancient wizard.
So you can imagine my shock when this seemingly polite yet strangely
odd fellow next to me waves his hand and makes a flame appear.
Strangely enough, I wasn't frightened. I was fascinated.
was a different matter. He stood bolt upright in fear. He was like a
cat, frozen a moment in fright, though he wasn't about to move. Any
wizard who could do wandless magic was not a wizard to be trifled with.
man sighed as if he knew we were suddenly uncomfortable with him. He
pulled his other hand out of his cloak and pulled his hood down,
revealing a mass of short, messy black hair which was starting to go
grey at the temples. He turned to look at me then; his face sported
several days of unshaved facial hair and he wore glasses, behind which
gleamed a pair of emerald green eyes. None of this mattered at that
moment. What mattered was what I saw next, the thing which drew my
attention away from the rest of his face. Right there, sitting in the
middle of his forehead, was the unmistakable lightning shaped scar.
All at once it made sense.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to frighten you," he said simply. "I just thought you could use a light."
could scarcely speak. I had heard that everyone, at some point in their
lifetime, has a brush with greatness. This was more like meeting a
living legend. No, the living legend. It was like Merlin had come back and was sitting in the bar next to me.
"Are… Aren't you...," was all I could manage.
"Yeah, but don't say it, please. You can imagine how much I get that."
wanted to talk to him then, to ask him all the usual questions, the
ones about the battle with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, about his
experience in the Auror Corps, about his friendship with the
controversial Minister Granger, about what he did in his free time, and
if he still played Quidditch. Most of all, I wanted to ask him about
his apparent disappearance.
Instead, I said, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be rude, it's just that… well…"
He turned back to his whisky and said, "It's okay, I'm used to it."
man that I am, I granted Mr. Potter's request. Carl on the other hand
was a little slower on the uptake. I could see it coming, and there
wasn't a darn thing I could do about it. Carl got a huge grin on his
face, then started laughing loudly.
"Well I'll be a monkey's
uncle! It's H…" was all he was able to say. Mr. Potter apparently had
read the signs too. Just before he blurted out the name, Mr. Potter had
waved his hand again, and Carl found himself quite unable to continue
"Please forgive me, Mr. Carl, but I would rather not
have my named yelled out loud in this neighborhood, thank you," Mr.
Potter said quietly yet firmly.
To his credit, Carl managed to
regain control of his senses, calm down and nod his head. Mr. Potter
snapped his fingers, and Carl spoke again, much quieter this time.
your pardon, Mr. Potter, I didn't mean nothing by it, honestly, it's
just that it's not often I see a wizard of your stature in my bar, and,
well, never come to think of it, and I just got excited is all, and I'm
Mr. Potter smiled a bit and held up his hand. "Mr. Carl, it is quite all right."
nodded nervously and, apparently unable to think of anything else to
say or do, began cleaning glasses behind the bar. Mr. Potter's display
had given me an idea on how to start up a conversation.
you don't mind me asking, how is it possible to do magic without a
wand? I've only seen it done once in my lifetime, and I've never even
come close to being able to do it myself."
Mr. Potter sipped
his whisky, then said, "It's more of a talent you're born with, really.
Some people have a knack for it, others never get the hang of it. I can
only do it with simpler spells; anything more than that and I need a
Was he really that modest? "I've heard it said that
those that have the knack are also among the most powerful of wizards,
is that true?"
"I suppose so," he replied. "I haven't given it much thought, to be honest."
given it much thought?" Carl asked indignantly. "Hell man, they say
you're the most powerful wizard who ever lived, next to Merlin himself!"
Potter chuckled. "Now I wouldn't say that. I know of one wizard who
could run circles around me in most situations. He was a great wizard,
and a great man." The way he spoke, I could tell he very much respected
this wizard and thought of him fondly.
"Nah, you're just being
modest. We heard all about you here in the states, Mr. Potter. We know
you took down You-Know-Who before you even turned eighteen. We also
know you made it through Auror training and into the Corps in half the
time of other wizards. And, if rumor is to be believed, you were the
youngest Quidditch player at your school in a century, and a Seeker at
that. Now, what do you have to say for yourself?"
Mr. Potter sipped his whiskey, then looked at Carl and smiled. "Guilty as charged."
"Ha! Ya see, Nate? What did I tell ya?"
For some reason, I decided to ask a rhetorical question. "So what are you doing here in States?"
some moments Mr. Potter stared at his glass and said nothing. Then,
sadly, he said, "Things don't always turn out like you intend them to,
For a moment I thought I had offended him. I returned
to watching my firewhisky glisten in its glass, taking another glorious
sip and letting it burn into my soul. To my utter amazement, Mr. Potter
began telling me a story. This is how it went, to the best of my
"After the battle with Voldemort I went on to
train as an Auror, as you apparently know. In two years I earned my
badge and went on to a fairly respectable career in the Corps. During
that time I fell in love with a woman I had known since the summer
before my second year at Wizard School, as you call it, though I had
known of her a year before. She was shorter than me with flaming red
hair, deep brown eyes and a smile that could make all my troubles
instantly melt. She had become a very good friend, especially after my
other two good friends had gotten together themselves. I finally
realized how much she meant to me, and we were married on the grounds
of the school. We were celebrating our first anniversary when the
My gut wrenched when he said that. He paused to take a sip and continued.
was immediately called in with the rest of the Corps, of course. We
spent months tracking down lead after lead and chased wizard and witch
alike, but each one turned out to be a dead end. Every time we thought
the whole thing had blown over, another witch or wizard would die. It
was the most frustrating time I have ever experienced.
we got a lucky break, and with the help of an informant we captured the
wizard we thought was the ring-leader. He came quietly, which shocked
me and caused a great deal of concern among the Corps. He cooperated in
every conceivable way until we tried to interrogate him. We brought him
in, gave him the serum and began to ask him questions. Instead of
singing like a canary in Spring, like we had expected, he sat in his
chair and said nothing. After several futile hours of that we tried to
dig into his thoughts, but all of us came up empty handed. It seemed he
was immune to the serum and was an exceptional Occlumens.
we had exhausted all of our methods, he began to talk in quiet monotone
which gave us all very serious chills. He told us simply that if we
didn't let him go, each of us would suffer a great personal loss."
"What kind of personal loss?" I asked him. Mr. Potter either didn't hear me or ignored me because he continued:
"We all laughed at him, of course. We then escorted him back to his cell and went home. The next day my wife went missing."
My heart sank. I didn't know what to say. He went on as if in a trance.
were supposed to meet in Diagon Alley for lunch. She never showed. I
went back to the house to check on her. It was dead silent. There was
no sign of struggle or forced entry. She simply wasn't there. Nobody
knew where she had gone; her family hadn't heard from her, and her
friends knew nothing. She always tells somebody when she's going to be
somewhere, and she rarely goes anywhere alone. She had simply vanished.
brought our suspect back into the interrogation room and demanded he
tell me where she was. He smiled and said nothing. I poured every bit
of my being into Legilimency trying to get any information I could out
of him. That's when it happened."
After a few seconds I asked, "What happened?"
I found myself speechless. I had only heard of such things happening in
those sickle novels you find at the counter at the bookstore. I never
imagined such a thing was actually possible. I was horrified.
immediately placed me under an administrative suspension and set a date
for a hearing. I never made it. I knew that if I didn't act fast
somebody else would be next, and my wife would never be found. I packed
up everything I could, pulled as much money as I could out of the bank
and went undercover. For months I scoured the city tracking down the
wizards we had discovered during our initial investigations, bribing,
cajoling or threatening as I saw fit. Every time I thought I was
getting close, it turned out they were a step ahead. Always a step
ahead. I would send leads back to the Corps anonymously, and inevitably
the witch or wizard in question would end up in Azkaban."
He took another sip and went silent.
"So what happened?" I asked tentatively.
sighed. "I ran out of wizards to track down. Once the leads dried up I
had nowhere else to go. At that point I was losing hope of every
finding her alive. Since nobody knew I was the one handing the clues to
the Corps I was branded a renegade by the Ministry. I was a wanted man,
so I fled the country and came to the States. I've been here ever
"You mean, you never found your wife?" I asked in disbelief.
He hung his head then, and I thought I caught a tear drip onto the counter.
stared at him in disbelief. I looked up at Carl who, I discovered, had
let loose a few tears of his own. It was unthinkable that such a thing
could have happened to the greatest Wizard of the age. What do you say
to someone like that?
Mr. Potter finished off his whisky, then got up from his chair.
"Well, gentlemen, I must be going. Mr. Carl, thank you for the excellent Firewhisky. Good evening to you both."
started walking towards the door. I didn't want to let him leave
without saying something. Something came to mind, so I said it.
"They say it's better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all."
Mr. Potter stopped. Without turning back he said, "Yeah. Right." With that he was gone.
Carl and I stared at each other for a good minute.
"Can you believe that?" Carl asked me. "What a story! That poor man."
I nodded. "That must have been some woman."
Carl looked me over. "You look like crap, Nate. Go home. Get some rest."
"Yeah yeah, all right, I'm going. See you next time."
"Take care of yourself," Carl said as I left.
remember the night air being cooler than normal. A light fog had rolled
in, but it didn't strike me as unusual. I just remember going over the
experience in the bar in my head, amazed at the fact that I had met him
face to face, knowing that nobody would ever believe me. I was very
soon to be proven wrong on this point. I'm not sure if it was the fog
or the fact that I was distracted, but I never saw her standing there.
I just bumped into her.
"I'm so sorry, I didn't see you, are you okay?" I said
"Yes, I'm fine. I shouldn't have been standing out in the middle of the sidewalk, forgive me," she replied.
had an English accent. As I looked her over, I realized she had flaming
red hair and deep brown eyes. She also looked like she had been crying.
"Are you all right? Did I hurt you?" I asked.
"No, no you didn't, I'm sorry, it's just that… well, I'm looking for someone."
burst of excited adrenaline surged through my body as I realized who
this was. It hit me then; this was a convergence. This was the reason I
was where I was that night. Fate had introduced me to Harry Potter, and
now fate would use me to lead his wife back to him.
"He wouldn't happen to be about my height, dark, messy hair, green eyes, and a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead, would he?"
I will remember the look of shock on her face until the day I die. "You've seen him? WHERE? WHEN?"
"Five minutes ago. In the bar I was just in around the corner. He left before I did, so I didn't see where he went…"
I could finish, the woman who was Harry Potter's wife had pulled out
some kind of gadget and was holding it in her hand. As I watched, an
arrow in the center of the gadget glowed red, then turned and pointed
back the direction I had come from.
"He's here! I knew it! Oh
thank you mister," she said excitedly. She grabbed my head with one
hand and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek, then ran off in the
direction of the arrow. I watched her disappear into the fog, wondering
how long it would take for her to find him.
The next day
everything returned to normal. After work I walked to the square with a
few of my drinking buddies, but bid them farewell as I walked over to
the cute little witch I had met two nights before. We went out to
dinner that night. Two years later we married.
I never saw Mr.
Potter or his wife again. I read in the newspaper years later that he
had returned to England and surrendered himself to the authorities.
After that I told this story to my children and years later to my
grandchildren. I'm not sure any of them ever believed me.