Harry Potter got out of his seat and walked toward the stage. The warm wind that blew across the field ruffled his graduation robes and tilted his hat. Harry felt stupid in this outfit. He wanted to get the hell out of here and go have some butterbeers with Ron before taking off for the islands.
Harry Potter didn’t have a plan. He was on the stage now. Dumbledore had given him some bullshit before the ceremony about his dead parents watching over him and being proud. Hmph. They could have at least had the decency to stay on earth as ghosts. Didn’t they have unfinished business?
Professor McGonagall handed him a scroll tied with a gold ribbon. She nodded briskly at him, and Harry shook Dumbledore’s hand. Right, right, let’s get this over with.
Harry Potter strutted off the stage.
He didn’t have a plan, and it was bothering him. All the living parents rushed to their children after the ceremony, and while the Weasley family tried to make him feel loved, it wasn’t working. Harry wasn’t in the mood for their lanky, red-haired pity. He stood to the side, aloof, watching his former girlfriend, Hermione, hang all over her finance, George Weasley. Absolutely disgusting. They were getting married in July—Harry would have some excuse not to go.
He and Ron left for Hogsmeade as soon as they could. Ron wasn’t in a great mood, either—he hadn’t graduated with honors like his brothers had.
They talked for awhile at the Three Broomsticks. It was mostly empty—everyone was out with their parents, celebrating. Speaking of that, Ron said, getting up, Gotta go! Harry was left alone at the bar.
His defeat of Voldemort had been anti-climatic. It had happened two years ago, when he was sixteen, and he’d killed the dark lord with a sword, rather than magic. He hated to think it, but it had been a great feeling, plunging that thing through the stomach of the man who killed his parents.
After that, he was a hero, but in a distant way. He was a killer. He had murdered someone, out of necessity, but still. He’d had a few girlfriends—Ginny, Hermione—but no one really trusted him anymore.
He unwillingly became a crusader—some symbol of good that no one could completely relate to.
Harry Potter ordered another brandy.
It would be a long night, and then he’d leave. Where? He wasn’t sure—someplace warm, with decaying Spanish Missions and thick green jungles. Some island. Someplace where he could be a boat captain, or a fisherman—fade into the background. The magic way of life had failed his father, but he wouldn’t give it a chance to ruin his own life any further. He’d meet some girl who barely spoke English, have a few kids, sit in his chair and watch the ocean.
Harry Potter wanted to forget.
Voldemort was dead anyway. These people didn’t need him anymore. The Weasleys would go on ignoring Ron, he would go on sulking until he found some girl to marry, then he’d work for his father for the rest of his life. Hermione would marry George, embarrass him by making more money than he did, and probably die being remembered as one of the greatest witches to walk the earth.
And whatever happened to Harry Potter? they’d ask. Well he killed the Dark Lord. He saved all of you. What more do you want? Just let it go. Put his sixteen year old photo in the history books—what a good looking fellow! the young witches will think, as Professor Binns bores another generation of students to death in history class.
" Hey," a startling voice shook him from his thoughts, " You gonna finish that or what, pal?"
Harry looked up to see a waitress with thick red hair smacking her gum in his face. He turned to see that no one else was in the Three Broomsticks, that the chairs had been turned upside-down on the tables.
" We’re closing," she added.
" Thank you, captain obvious," Harry muttered a silly taunt from his childhood as he slid off his barstool.
" Whoa, whoa," the waitress said, rushing to catch him. " How long have you been here?"
" I don’t know…" Harry said as he stumbled to his feet. " A while."
" God—you STINK," she said, helping him to the counter. " Are you okay to fly home?"
" I’ll walk."
" Well where do you live?" she asked.
" Hogwarts," he said, " I just graduated. It’s my last night."
" Oh yeah? Well what are you doing here?"
" I don’t know," Harry growled, yanking his arm out of her grasp, " What is this—Twenty Questions?"
" Here," the waitress said, dragging him over to a booth. " Sit down for a minute. Clear your head."
" My head IS clear," Harry muttered, but he fell into the seat.
" Let me make you some coffee," the waitress said, taking off her apron and heading back to the kitchen.
" Stay right there!"
Harry Potter’s head was pounding.
The waitress returned to the booth with the coffee, and set it down in front of him. Harry took a few sips and burnt his tongue.
" Thanks," he said gruffly.
" Sure," she answered, watching him and twirling a piece of hair around her finger. She was pretty, but even though he was drunk, Harry didn’t feel the need to flirt with her. She was down to earth, or something.
" I used to go to Hogwarts," she said, sounding distant.
" Really? What house were you in?"
" Gryffindor," she answered, " You?"
" Ah. I thought so," she said with a grin.
" I dunno—just had you pegged for a Gryffindor."
Harry wondered why she hadn’t noticed the scar. If she had, she wasn’t giving him the whole hero treatment. Or was she? Maybe that was why she’d made him coffee.
" Why’d you do this?" he asked, putting the cup down.
" Why are you being so nice? You didn’t have to make me coffee," Harry reminded her.
The waitress rolled her eyes. " Well, DUH, it was just common courtesy."
" Ah. Well, thank you."
They were both quiet for a moment.
" So what have you got planned now?" she asked him after a while.
Harry Potter didn’t want to answer that.
" Some things," he mumbled. " Maybe I’ll go in for Professional Quidditch." Ha. That was rich, Harry—he’d gotten replaced on the Gryffindor team two years ago by Colin Creevy.
" Ha!" she said, her eyes sparkling, " My old boyfriend played Quidditch for Gryffindor."
Like I care, Harry thought sourly. He felt bad just for thinking it.
" I had a girlfriend for awhile," he said in a sigh, " She left me for an older man."
The waitress laughed again. " Sorry," she said.
" It’s okay."
" Hey," she said, " I think I know what will cheer you up."
" Who says I need cheering?"
She rolled her eyes at him and grabbed his hand.
" Come on," she said, " Have you got a wand?"
" Good," she said with a smile, " We’ll need it."
She led him out the back door, out into the warm May evening, toward a dark patch of green on the lawn behind the restaurant.
" Get out your wand," she whispered.
" Do the light spell. What was it again?"
" Lumos?" The tip of Harry’s wand lit up as he said it.
" That’s the one," she said, grinning. " Now point it down here."
Harry did as she asked, and alight on the grass was a patch of clovers.
He sighed, " What are we doing?"
" Looking for a four leafer, of course!" she said, grabbing his arm to guide the light, " Everyone knows that when you find a four leaf clover on the eve of a great turning point in your life—like your graduation—you’ll have good luck until the next one comes along."
" The next what?"
" The next turning point!" She turned her head back to the ground, " Now help me look. It doesn’t count if you’re not looking."
" And just what do you suppose will be the next turning point in my life?" he asked.
" Well… getting married, I suppose."
Harry’s eyes combed the ground—this was dumb, it was too dark to see how many leaves were on any given clover.
" I’ll never get married," he muttered.
" Oh, rubbish," she said, " How do you know?"
" Who would want to marry me?"
" Plenty of people," she assured him.
" I don’t know about that," he said, continuing to scan the ground.
The waitress suddenly straightened and looked at him. Harry peered over at her.
" Why’d you stop?"
" How’d you ever turn out so cynical?" the waitress asked, her eyes full of sadness.
Harry Potter stood and looked at this girl.
She was older than him, but not old. Maybe in her mid-twenties. She was pretty, and there was something damn familiar about those eyes.
" What’s that supposed to mean?"
" I want you to believe that you’re worth something, Harry."
" So you do know who I am," he said, lightly kicking at the ground.
" … Yes," she said, " I want you to be happy. Do you hear me?"
" What do you care?" he spat back. " You… you think I can just DECIDE to be happy, and that’s it?"
" I had hoped you might."
" What’s the difference?" Harry muttered, " You-Know-Who, VOLDEMORT, Tom Riddle—whatever the hell his name is—is dead. What more do you people want from me?"
" We want you to live up to your potential. You’re not just a hired assassin, Harry," the waitress insisted.
" Then what am I?" he asked.
" I… I don’t suppose you’ve figured it out yet," she said, looking back down at the clover patch. " But that’s the wonderful part… isn’t it?"
" Not necessarily," Harry said. He sighed. " Look, I’m not always like this, okay?"
" No. It’s just… today…at graduation—watching all of those other kids with their parents…." He trailed off. " Well you must know my parents are dead."
" Yes," she said quietly, " I do know that."
" I felt like I didn’t have a friend in the goddamn world," Harry explained, " Which is not true. People have been so good to me… at Hogwarts, and I usually appreciate it. But not today. Not today, dammit, I don’t owe them my appreciation when they’re all out there taking pictures with their happy families."
" That’s just…horrible," the waitress said, her voice quivering. " But must you be so bitter about it? It’s not your friends’ fault… it’s not anybody’s fault."
" Yeah…" Harry trailed off. " It was somebody’s fault. And I killed him."
" Oh, God," she whispered, " I know."
" Well everybody KNOWS," Harry said, " But they…don’t, they don’t, you see. It was like poetry. Like artwork. I guess that’s sick. Sometimes I just think about it. How the sword went in like a knife through butter."
" Oh—stop it!"
" Sorry," Harry said, " Sometimes I think my mother would have been ashamed. She was so… I mean, I don’t remember, but sometimes I can FEEL the way she was. She would have wanted me to… I don’t know, talk him into being good or something."
The waitress scoffed. " Don’t say such things. Your mother… she wouldn’t disapprove. She was nobody’s angel, believe me."
" You knew her?" Harry asked, excited. " Did you go to school together?"
The waitress just stared down at the clovers. She bent, and stood up clutching one, but upon examining it, Harry saw that it only had three leaves.
" Bummer," he said.
" No," she whispered. " You think you know everything… just like your father did."
" You knew him, too?"
She smiled, beautiful and sad. " James Potter," she whispered, twirling the clover in her fingers. " How you look like him." She glanced at Harry, and then blew lightly on the little clover she held. Another leaf grew at the touch of her breath—a fourth. She smiled softly and held it out to Harry.
Harry Potter reached out and took her gift.
" She isn’t disappointed at all," the girl said, a tear streaking down her cheek.
Harry Potter curled his fingers around the clover, and stared back at her, without a word.
" Look at you," she said in a breath, wiping away another tear, " How could she be? You’re everything she wanted in a son. Even your fear and uncertainty about the future are admirable."
Harry Potter shook his head.
" Oh, Harry," she said, choking through a sob, " I wish I could…," she reached for him briefly, and then drew her arms back to her chest.
Harry Potter could feel the brandy taking hold.
" Who are you?" he whispered, his vision blurring despite the coffee.
" Lily Potter," she said.
" Hmph." Harry said, shutting his eyes for a moment, " That was me Mum’s name."
Harry Potter’s eyes slid shut again.
" Imagine that," Lily whispered.
Harry Potter passed out, landing in a soft patch of three-leafed clovers.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Harry woke up in his bed at Hogwarts. Ron Weasley was staring at him.
" Bloody hell!" Ron said with a huge grin, " What did you DO last night?"
" Aw, shit," Harry sat up and rubbed his eyes, " Where was I when you found me?"
" Passed out in back of the Three Broomsticks," Ron said, laughing, " Gawd, Harry—I thought you’d gone and died!"
" Sorry," Harry said, kicking off his covers, " I was dreaming about… my mother."
" Aw, gosh," Ron said, scratching his head, " I told you, you coulda come out with us…"
" No, no," Harry said, waving his hand, " It was fine. I… needed to be alone."
" Well, I gotta go," Ron said, hoisting his bag onto his shoulder, " Percy’s taking me out to lunch to celebrate. Something about finally becoming a ‘man’." Ron rolled his eyes, " He’ll probably try and tell me about the birds and the bees or some stupid shit."
Harry laughed and pulled on some clean pants. He left the shirt he’d graduated and slept in on.
" So I guess I’ll see you at George and Hermione’s wedding, then?" Ron said, walking to the door.
When hell freezes over, Harry thought. But, no, maybe he would go. No hard feelings.
" Sure," he smiled benevolently at Ron. It was strange to see him finally walk away. Ron was his sidekick, but maybe he didn’t need one anymore.
Harry Potter walked to his mirror.
The last time I’ll see myself here, he thought. He wondered what kind of bloke would move into this dorm next year at the beginning of school. Probably some other stick in the mud who’d defeat the dark lord Draco Malfoy someday. Harry laughed to himself.
He felt something in his hand, and he knew what it was before he opened it. Fingers uncurled, and a crumpled three leaf clover fell to his dresser. Three leaves? He looked at his hand. The forth leaf was stuck to his palm.
" Mum," he whispered, looking in the mirror. He had really seen her.
Lily Potter’s bright green eyes peered back at him. Damn familiar eyes, those were.
Maybe he would go in for Pro Quidditch. Give it a shot, anyway. Or something else worthwhile. What was he if he wasn’t a wizard?
Harry Potter picked up his bag, and walked out of the room.