Harry Potter, formerly known as The Boy Who Lived, knocked back a shot of whisky and jumped a little at the force he slammed it back onto the bar. He had obviously had a few too many. Again.
'Happy birthday to me." His voice had a singsong quality to it, even when he sang under his breath.
He was used to spending his birthday alone. He could count the amount of times he had had someone to celebrate it with on both his hands.
He knew if he went home there would be cards from his friends, but this year, the two people he had always celebrated with when he had the opportunity were away on their honeymoon.
He should be happy for them.
He was happy for them.
He wasn't thrilled about having to escort Ginny down the aisle, but it was Molly's way of trying to get them to talk to each other and there it was.
She was radiant as always.
Anyway, she was over him. Harry had seen her out with Rolando Harris, the chaser for the Chudley Cannons. He was strong and tall and probably not at all 'wishy-washy' or 'emotionally damaged' Harry supposed bitterly.
Rolando had been at the reception. He was quite a dancer.
Harry had stayed as long as he had to without people talking about it. Lord knows if he'd left when he'd wanted to it would have been plastered all over the papers the next day.
He couldn't sneeze these days without the world making commentary about whether he'd been exposed to the deadly Doxy Dung Virus or if he just wasn't eating enough vegetables.
He found himself staying in Muggle London more and more often but he was having a bit of trouble keeping probing reporters away from him.
He hated having to walk around in his invisibility cloak. He just wished people would leave him alone.
He waved the bartender down again and he gave Harry a shot on the house before presenting him with his tab. Harry downed it before slapping down his payment and a generous tip.
This was a nice place. No one had bothered him. It wasn't too smoky. The bartender hadn't cut him off when he should have. It was close to the tube and he could still get home without having to call a cab.
Then he saw that damn photographer from the Daily Prophet reflected in the mirror above the bar. His face was framed in a small, dingy panel of glass at the front of the pub. Thankfully, it looked like the window was way too dirty to get a clear picture through.
"Hey mate, I don't suppose you have a back door." Harry asked hopefully.
"Above or Below London?" The bartender had spotted a golden galleon among the assorted coinage Harry had spilled out onto the bar.
"Does it let out in Diagon Alley?" Harry asked. He'd never heard the Wizarding World referred to as Below London before.
"Floating Market." The little man grunted as he polished a short glass.
"Huh." Harry didn't want to show his ignorance at not knowing what the floating market was. Perhaps it was some sort of Wizarding community market where people brought their vegetables and home made goods. He probably wouldn't have thought it was a good idea if he was sober, but since he was not, he seemed to think a bit of adventure and shopping would be good for him. "Below London, please."
"There's a trapdoor under the crate of tomato juice in the back. Just climb down the ladder without killing yourself and go to the right once you reach the bottom."
"Thanks." Harry got off his stool and tried to force his legs to work properly. He sincerely hoped he wasn't going to fall down that ladder and break his neck.
What a headline that would be: Boy Who Lived Killed By Gravity.
He shook his head and got his bearings before staggering into the small, dim back room.
He found the crates of tomato juice after looking for awhile. They were hidden under some old musty yellow tablecloths. He clumsily pulled the crates to one side and uncovered an old, brass hinged trapdoor.
He pulled the door open and heard gears crunching together as part of a ladder extended upwards from the hole so he could descend easier.
Well, that's nice. At least I won't just fall down a hole trying to get a foot hold. Harry thought to himself.
He looked down the hole and was happy to see a single burning gaslight at the bottom of the ladder.
He carefully descended and when he reached the bottom of the ladder he saw that the light wasn't to make him feel at ease at all, but was to illuminate a small sign tacked to the side of the stone corridor.
Pull lever to close Floor Door.
There was a small wooden lever underneath the sign. When Harry pulled it he wasn't surprised to hear the grinding of gears and he watched as the top of the ladder descended into the corridor and the trapdoor closed itself.
Then the light went out.
Harry sighed as he pulled out his wand. He thought of the incantation that gave him light and the darkness in front of him was cut slightly.
"Damn magical darkness." Harry muttered as he stumbled along the corridor. He stopped when he heard voices up ahead.
"I'm telling you the takings just aren't as good lately." A young voice sounded discouraged.
There was a disgusting squelch and a stench of sewage and rotting things.
"Well, we'll just have to make due. Fluff that one up a bit. They sell better when they look happy." An older, seasoned voice sounded tired, but optimistic.
"Why should he look happy? He drowned in a sewer!"
"Look at that! See? Stab wound in the back. Probably never saw it coming. Died happy as can be."
Harry was both startled and amused. If he was sober he would probably have found this exchange quite chilling, but in the safe warm embrace of drunkenness he reasoned these people were only dangerous to the dead and he had nothing to worry about.
He did have enough presence of mind to wait until he couldn't hear them anymore to continue on his journey, however.
Harry stepped out of the edge of the darkness into a round stone room that was brightly lit. He heard noises coming from the other corridors. Some sounded like people gathering, some like metal being banged together, another had a faint otherworldly howl emanating from it.
He kept to the corridor straight ahead of him and when he got to the end he was surprised to see a ladder leading up.
He climbed up the ladder carefully, his wand in his teeth and his hands rubbing uncomfortably on the old rusted ladder. When he got near the top he felt around and pushed on what felt like a new trapdoor. When he pushed on it gently a small bell rang three times. Harry nearly lost his grip when the trapdoor opened on its own and the section of ladder he was on started moving upwards.
Harry found himself rising in the center of a lawn in Hyde Park, the grass rolling aside to make room for his ascent.
When he stepped off the ladder and brushed himself the clockwork mechanism retracted the ladder, closed the trapdoor, and the lawn magically rolled back up and over the door.
It seemed to be a one way door.
Harry looked around him and was stunned to see small tents and booths set up around the lawn. There were some fires going in old trash cans to keep people warm. It looked like a blacksmith had set up a small portable forge that glowed red in the night. Some tall, slender, beautiful women had a booth that was let up with glass orbs that glowed light blue. When Harry examined them he saw small fairies trapped in the orbs. They were crying and the tears that pooled at the bottom of the orbs was what was causing the glow.
Harry stepped back, repulsed.
He nearly knocked into a small…man?
It was small and hairy, but was wearing a dirty brown suit and a tri-cornered hat. He has a bass drum strapped to his back, a harmonica harness around his shoulders and was carrying a small accordion case. The small person had a fuzzy, tobacco colored face and a squinty eye. The other eye was a dull brown and sized Harry up and down before spotting his wand.
"Excuse me, your grace." The man squeaked out in terror.
"I assure you, sir, it was all my fault." Harry said, slightly slurring his words.
He got the impression he wasn't in the Wizarding part of the Wizarding world at all. This was obviously a place for magical creatures and they were afraid of the power wizards wielded over them. He would have to be polite and respectful.
The little man bowed and quickly made his way as far away from Harry as he could get.
Harry tried to get an idea of the way things were set up but failed as he realized some of the merchants didn't have a stall at all, but wandered freely through the crowd.
He saw a dwarf selling deep fried rat on a stick, a tall gangly man selling folded paper hats, a stout black haired woman selling hand drawn jackets for books, on and on the stalls seemed to stretch, although some of the more interesting things to see were walking around.
A man with a monkey stopped near a stall selling fish stew. The monkey jumped down and patiently waited as the man pulled out a miniature piano out of his oversized jacket. The monkey tinkled out a 16th century tune as the man did the pogo.
One thing was for certain. No one knew who he was. Even with his wand out and openly a wizard.
Where was he anyway?
Harry found a stand with a large ox roasting on a large spit behind it and he paid one embroidered handkerchief for a large chunk of meat and a thick slice of warm bread. It seemed to be served on a very nice china plate.
He found a patch of grass between two stalls and sat down to enjoy his meal. He hadn't realized how hungry he was until he had smelled the food.
When had he started drinking anyway? When was the last time he had really eaten?
He wasn't really sure. It was all sort of hazy.
He took a mouth full of roast ox and was savoring the smoky flavor, chewing with his eyes closed when it happened.
Harry's eyes flew open. He raised his hands to fend off any photographers or fans. To his surprise, nothing happened. He looked at the person talking to him and was pleasantly surprised. "Mr. Ollivander?"
"It is you!" Ollivander looked startled. He was carrying a dark leather bag and was wearing a tweed hat and cloak. "What on earth are you doing here, Harry?"
"I was in a bar and I needed to get out the back way." Harry rose to his feet. "The bartender asked me for Above or Below London and I said Below."
Ollivander rubbed his forehead with one hand. "Why would you say that, boy?"
"Because the bartender asked if I wanted to go to the Floating Market. I thought it was sort of an open air thing." Harry looked around them. "Great food. Why are you here?"
"Because I get to descend into Below London to gather wand making supplies. Wizards are supposed to get papers before we come here. It's a leftover law from when we were allowed into the Fairy Lands," Ollivander said dryly.
Harry choked on his food. "What?"
"Technically you shouldn't have even been able to find this place. It's been enchanted so that anyone involved with this place is undetectable to those of normal societies." Ollivander said worridly.
"What does that mean? That no one in the Wizarding World can see me now?" Harry brightened for the first time in days.
"You really want that?" Ollivander looked incredulous.
"Think about that for a minute." Harry said a bit too harshly.
Ollivander gave Harry a long, hard look. "I suppose you would at that."
"If you're here why can you still interact with wizards?" Harry asked suspiciously.
"I'm an enchanter as well as a wizard and all my papers are in order." Ollivander sighed patiently, as if explaining something to a small child.
Harry had no idea what that meant, but wasn't interested in revealing he was as ignorant as he felt.
"So what do I do now?" Harry asked.
"Well, you either go back give the Wizarding World a go and see if it spits you back out." Ollivander tilted his head back and seemed to be thinking. "If it does it's a paperwork nightmare, but at least I know you're here so that solves the problem of contacting the fairy court to get a sighting of you."
Harry didn't know what that meant, but he assumed it was a good thing Ollivander spotted him.
"There is… another option." Ollivander said.
"What?" Harry asked.
"Come with me, boy. It looks like I have a proposition for you." Ollivander placed a hand on Harry's shoulder and steered him towards the small wooden wagon owned by Ollivander's friend, Zhou Qiu so they could have a quiet place to discuss Ollivander's proposition.
One sobering potion and several cups of tea later Harry and Ollivander were shaking hands with Zhou Qiu.
"So he will stay with you until his paperwork is in order?" Ollivander was double checking with his friend.
"Is no problem!" Zhou Qiu was a tall, rotund man with a tiny wife that seemed to speak in twitters rather than words. "Since the children have flown the coop we have plenty of room!" He laughed uproariously at his own joke.
"His wife is a robin with shape shifting abilities," Ollivander told Harry out of the side of his mouth. "Since he doesn't carry the gene for shifting the children were born non-shifters in their mother's natural form."
"So they really…" Harry was afraid to finish his sentence.
"Flew the coop? Quite." Ollivander said simply. "Now when your papers are in order I'll be in contact with you about opening the London Below branch of Ollivander's. It will take about a months worth of planning and building after that to get things in order for the new shop. Zhou Qiu will teach you what to expect down here."
"Thank you, Mr. Ollivander." Harry held his hand out, genuinely thankful. "You really have saved my life."
Ollivander stood staring at Harry's hand incredulously for a moment before he clasped it warmly in his own. "It's the least I could do, boy. The very least I could do."