Five years after the Downfall of Voldemort and nearly four years after the true start of the Peace, two young veterans meet by accident just north of Amsterdam. Written pre-HBP
Thursday, July 24, 2003
Lavender Brown was tired. She'd had to meet the group of rowdy American wizards the morning before in London, and had been sheparding them ever since. She had made certain they were fed at the Leaky Cauldron, escorted them through Diagon Alley to the Ministry-led business meetings, and then collected them after their meetings and the late working dinner was over.
As always, the way the group wanted to work off the time-adjusting potion that would keep them alert for many more hours was to party. And, as always, some Muggle-born member of the group had suggested the legal brothels and pot shops of Amsterdam.
It was almost beyond a cliche. Lavender had merely given them the fake smile she had developed over the previous two years, called her Amsterdam contact, Bouke Van Buren, and had the group transported over. Bouke had given them his usual lecture on deportment with the Muggles of Amsterdam's nightlife and helped them exchange galleons into Euros. The pair had then escorted the group to do their window shopping with the hookers in the windows.
Sometime between 5:00 am and 8:00 am, the fifteen worn-out wizards and witches would appear in the special little pension (called a 'Mini-Hotel') operated by the Benelux Ministry of Magic, reeking of lotion and pot, and be given a cot. Sometime around 2:00 pm, they'd start waking up. Some would be very embarrassed, some would be relaxed, and most would have something of a hangover. The staff would see that they were cleaned up, given the anti-hangover potions, fed, and kept on a short leash until Lavender collected them at 4:00, thanked them for coming to the business meetings, and then had them sent straight back to North America.
Lavender looked up from her mineral water as her contact sat down across from her. "Did you get the last one started?"
"No," he answered, "she was still trying to decide between the blonde professional in a window and that cute lesbian with the protest sign. I think she'll hook up with the protester."
Lavender nodded wearily. "Sometimes, I wish the Americans had stayed home."
Bouke shrugged. "Their Muggle counterparts have been adding to our economy for generations. The wizards have been coming, too, just not through these business ventures." He grinned. "Blame your famous countryman."
"Harry deserved almost all the credit he was given, but why blame him for everything since then, too?" Lavender complained.
Van Buren shrugged. "Well, the publicity he received during the last two years of the War finally made Quidditch popular in North America, and after two years of exchanges and tours, they decided our business methods were 'quaint.' They're determined to 'modernize' us -- read Muggle us -- and make a profit doing it."
"Poor Harry," Lavender said.
"Has anyone heard what has happened to him?" Bouke asked. "I mean, he defeated that Dark Wizard, and helped with the clean-up. . . ."
"Defeated? Helped?" Lavender was scandalized.
"Oh, there's a backstory you know then? Shall we go someplace quieter and discuss it?"
Lavender gave him a very dirty look. "NOT to your apartment. I keep telling you. . . ."
Bouke held him palm up. "No, no, nothing like that. There's an all-night cafÃ© northeast of the city. It's a quiet little suburb, and it's about the only place open where there is no chance of our charges bothering us." He sketched out the apparation point coordinates on a napkin.
Lavender shrugged. "Alright. Let's go."
It was a very silent neighborhood. The cafÃ© was in a little shopping square, now closed of course. During the day, it would be filled with shoppers from the middle class housing developments nearby and the apartment complexes that ringed the houses, whose occupants ranged from the immigrant working class to the south and young professionals to the north. At nearly 3:30 am, it was half filled. Most of the people were delivery men, taking a break. A few were young partiers in need of coffee before going home to sleep off the effects of the party.
"You knew Harry Potter, didn't you?" Bouke asked, sipping his cafÃ© au lait.
"We were in the same year and the same House at Hogwarts. We weren't best friends or anything, but yes, I know him." Lavender looked sad as she sipped her coffee. "He was never a happy boy, except when he was flying. How could he be? Bad things always seemed to happen to him. Even when things turn out alright, sometimes it is the bad beginnings that we remember."
"That's true," Bouke admitted. "And lots of people blamed him for the aftermath being so . . . messy."
"What were we supposed to do? Allow the very same people who had supported Voldemort twice just get away with it? Let them sink back into respectable lives and start planning for the next bastard to spread misery?"
Bouke looked at the buxom blonde across from him. There had to be some reason she was so resistant to not just his advances (after all, he repeatedly reasoned, he was very good looking but that didn't mean everyone had to fall for him), but everyone's advances. He knew of at least five other eligible wizards, and at least two eligible witches, who had tried. All had been shot down.
"No," Bouke finally admitted, "but it was a bit . . . provocative to kill that boy right in front of your Minister."
"Fudge was an idiot at best, a secret supporter at worst. He and his assistant committed suicide before we could test to see which, if not both, was the Deatheater. And Draco Malfoy was a spoiled brat at eleven, a spy for Voldemort at fifteen, a direct accomplice to murder at sixteen, and a murderer at seventeen. He was in so deep he deserved to be the last person kissed by a dementor before they were destroyed. I would gladly have killed the little ferret myself."
"Really?" Bouke had never seen the witch in any mood other than mild. Even when she was annoyed, she was mildly annoyed. Now, she sounded like she could be a warrior.
Lavender's face took on what Bouke had heard a Muggle-born colleague call 'the 1000 meter stare.' She was looking into some private hell. Finally, she spoke. "I dated a lot at Hogwarts, but the boy I kept coming back to was named . . . Seamus. I visit him every weekend."
She sighed. "They used the Imperius curse to make him try and kill Harry. He managed to fight it enough to make himself miss. When they recaptured him over our last Christmas holiday, Draco Malfoy was one of the Deatheaters who kept him under Crucio until he broke. He's not insane, like some, but he's not all there anymore. Not mentally or physically. If he wasn't under constant care, he'd have drunk himself to death by now, or worse. We love each other, but he won't marry me, because he's disgusted at what they left of him. No, Harry was right to kill Malfoy before he could buy himself a pardon."
Lavender looked Bouke straight in the eye. Before this morning, she had always looked like a soft, sensuous, silly blonde. Not now. She was still beautiful, but she had a hard look on her face now that actually frightened him. "Eleven of us went to Harry, after the first time Fudge tried to say things were over. We pledged to follow him into hell if that's what it took to kill every last Deatheater. Voldemort dead less than three hours, and that bastard was already trying 'to heal the wounds of our world.' Bullshit. Trying to protect his rich friends who were on the wrong side. Harry argued with us, then agreed with us and we issued the proclamation."
"That they had forty-eight hours to start confessing to all crimes, and be prepared to make restitution. That they could only be forgiven the exact crimes that they confessed to, and to be prepared to be under constant supervision," Bouke remembered. Considering the crimes, he, like many others on the side-lines, had thought that very tough but fair.
"Three days later, and over the next year and a half, we went after the bastards, starting with Draco. I know there'll be more Dark wizards, but by God we undercut the old families that have been supporting these movements for the last four hundred years."
Lavender suddenly noticed there was a man sitting on the next table, directly behind Bouke. She would have sworn the table was empty, but now she knew she'd been mistaken.
It was Harry Potter.
Harry shook his head; he didn't want Bouke to know he was there. It took five minutes, but Lavender managed to get Bouke to leave her there to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate.
Bouke's eyes passed right over Harry as he left.
Harry switched his chair around and sat across from Lavender. "You can still do it," she said. That trick had always amazed her.
"Sure can." He grimaced. "And how is my only totally loyal Gryffindor Revenger?"
The evidence had been clear. Either Cornelius Fudge or his assistant Percy Weasley, if not both, had been Deatheaters. The established protocol had been clear. They would approach the suspect, Harry would test them for the Mark as only he could, and if they had it, one of the Group would execute the mark.
Ron, Ginny, Fred, and George had all objected. They wanted to test Fudge, and if he had the Mark they wanted everyone to forget that Percy might as well. If Fudge didn't, they wanted to give Percy one last chance to confess.
Harry and the other 'Revengers' had at first been appalled. Then Hermione, Angelina, and Alicia decided they had to choose their lovers over the Group. Millicent Bulstrode, Justin Finch-Fletchley, and Lavender had demanded that there be no exceptions.
The eleventh Revenger, Luna Lovegood, had been killed two months before. She had given her life to save the main targets of the attack -- Ron, Hermione, and Ginny. Either Percy or Fudge, or both, had leaked their location. It had taken two months to prove that it could only have been Percy or Fudge who had betrayed them.
Harry had told the Weasleys they could have part of their way, but that Percy had to be examined and exposed if he had been a Deatheater, even if they didn't kill him. And, he had added, although there were still at least a half-dozen known Deatheaters left, after Percy the Group was through. They couldn't make an exception, and then continue to kill the others.
George had gone to Percy, and Percy and Fudge had committed suicide by the next morning. The Group broke up. Harry and Ginny, who had just started living together, broke up. Then Harry had disappeared.
"A little." She tried to smile. "And I could use some real English tea." Harry stood and held out his hand. Lavender took it and followed him out the door.
They walked northwards silently for maybe three kilometers through the suburb. Harry took her into the last of the large apartment blocks. They took the lift to the top storey.
It was windy -- the apartments were approached by a walkway balcony that Lavender thought must be rather treacherous during the winter. To the northeast were open fields leading towards the Zuiderzee, which was well in the line-of-sight.
"Pretty view," Lavender commented, looking over at the dark water as Harry stopped at the next to last apartment.
"It is," Harry agreed. "I often open the curtains to my study," he pointed to the window next to the apartment door, "and just watch the sail boats and ships."
It was a compact apartment, not too deep but fairly long. Kitchenette, WC, shower/washroom, two bedrooms, and a long living room with a semi-separated dining area. It was too dark for Lavender to see much. There was a back, more private balcony as well, which looked back towards the city. Harry sat Lavender on that back balcony, and rang a little bell. A house elf popped into existence.
"Harry Potter, sir!" he enthused in a whisper. He bowed to Lavender. "Miss Lavender! Very pleased to see you again!"
"Dobby!" Lavender said in quiet surprise. "It's very nice to see you again, too."
"A pot of Earl Grey, please," Harry requested. Dobby bowed and popped out. "He lives in the last apartment and takes care of me."
"I'm glad somebody does." Lavender took a deep breath. "We've all been worried about you."
"Me, Seamus, Dean, Parvati, Millicent, Justin, Neville, Cho, McGonagall. . . ."
"How is Seamus?" Harry interrupted.
"Better," Lavender said. "He hasn't tried to kill himself in over a year. That Muggle case worker you found for him really has helped. We still see him every other week. Seamus even has a part-time job on the Irish Wizard Radio. We stay together every weekend."
"I'm glad you're finding some happiness."
Lavender gave him a small wistful smile. "Some; not much, but some. Dean is moving up in the Ministry; Parvati and Padma's cosmetic company is doing well; Justin's father died two months ago, so he inherited the estate. His family and Millicent's don't get along too well. . . ." She trailed off.
"That's not surprising -- both are very snobbish in their own ways. And even I see Cho's name on the sports pages. 'The First Lady of American Quidditch.'" He snorted. "'American Quidditch!' Mostly decent European school players."
"Do you miss it?"
"Quidditch?" He shrugged. "I loved the flying more than the game, and I just got too big and heavy to be a professional seeker. I never got the chance to show my talents as a beater. Do you hear from any of the Weasleys?"
Lavender served them each a cuppa from the tray that had just appeared. "No. Just Hermione, and she still hasn't married Ron. You?"
"Not directly. Hermione is in contact with Remus, and so am I. He forwards notes back and forth. George sends me financial statements for the Wheezes, but doesn't give me any family details."
Lavender gave him the eye. "Either way, you should know Ginny's never had a relationship after you."
Harry looked out into the first rays of dawn. "She put me on a pedestal so high I couldn't help but fall. The War was a time when she could love me and watch me triumph over evil, even if I was dating Luna until her murder. The Aftermath was a time she could work with me. She fought because of her feelings for me and to get revenge for what Malfoy and Riddle had done to her during her first year. She couldn't handle knowing Percy thought she was less than his career and his alliance to Fudge."
"And she blamed you for not having prevented it, and for not thinking of a better solution," Lavender agreed. "But you'd forgive her, if she'd let you."
"Of course! I don't know if we could ever go back as lovers, but I miss all of them, Lav. And I don't need them to apologize; I know it's torn at them, but I'd be willing to agree to disagree."
"Weasleys are stubborn gits," she said with a grin.
"Can't deny that!"
"What do the Muggles think of your getting owls?" she asked, changing the subject.
"They come to that perch there," Harry said, pointing out an area of his balcony. "They can't really be seen."
"You're not ever coming back, are you?" Lavender asked.
Harry gave her a wry smile. "If some would-be dark wizard doesn't kill me, I could easily live more than another hundred years. Never is a long time. And I'd like to see you and the others. And I wish I could be with all the Weasleys. Hermione, Remus, and the Weasleys really are my family. It's hard to have most of your family mad at you."
"I'll drop a few hints." She knew Hermione was planning something, but didn't know where Harry was.
"Thanks." They sat in silence for a few minutes.
As Lavender started her second cup of tea, she thought of something. "How did you know I was in that cafe?"
"Another trick Dumbledore taught me. Let's leave it at that."
"Damn, Harry! You even have Dumbledore's little smile."
"The old man taught me well, Lav; what can I say?"
"I don't suppose you can say what you do during the day?"
She was not surprised to see Harry shake his head. "Although Snape would never believe it, part of my day is spent in magical research. The rest is classified."
"I thought not." Lavender yawned. "I guess I'd best go to the pension. The American invasion will no doubt start staggering in in a few hours, and I need at least two or three hours sleep."
She stood, and another thought struck her. "I suppose I can't apparate from here, right?"
"Nope," Harry answered with his old boyish grin. He stood up as well. "There's a little jogging trail that runs past the building. Let me walk you out."
The pair was silent as they walked out of the apartment, and then the building. Once they were on a secluded part of the trail, Lavender turned to her former leader. "You be careful, Harry. Remember, the world is a better place because you're in it."
She hugged him, and Harry replied, "I don't know if it's better, but I intend to keep it a little bit safer. As Hermione always said. . . ."
"You have that 'saving the world thing,'" Lavender replied.
"If you need help, I will still follow you, Harry, even if no one else will."
"Thanks, Lavender. That means a lot to me." He gave her hand a final squeeze, and walked away. He disappeared as he did so.
Lavender shook her head and then disapparated. The-Boy-Who-Lived would always feel he had to save the world. And, even if the world didn't always appreciate it, she would.
'Yes,' she told herself as she apparated in the little hallway of the narrow building that housed the Benelux Welcome Center and Mini-Hotel, 'I need to talk with Hermione. It's time to get Harry and Ginny back together.'