"Rusted and Weathered"

"Here you go, Mr. Potter, sir." Tom sets the bottle of Firewhiskey in front of me, and I acknowledge him with a slight nod and glance into his eyes. They hold the ever-present reverence, and also something else: pity. It isn't new; I've been a regular here in The Leaky Cauldron for the past year and a half, with my own dark corner to hide me from the fawning masses, rummaging in their pockets and handbags for a scrap of parchment and a quill so that they can prove to their friends that they got to meet their savior.

I glance at the grimy calendar hanging on the wall next to me. Wait a minute -- I lean closer, squinting through my dirty lenses -- today is the fifteenth of June. I swear under my breath. I should have known it was coming -- the press has been hounding me even more than usual.

It's hard to believe that it's only been two years since I killed Voldemort down by the Quidditch pitch at Hogwarts in my seventh year. Memories force their way to the front of my mind unbiddingly. I had just destroyed the sixth Horcrux a few days before -- Voldemort had stuffed Ravenclaw's bloody silver filigree vase in a neat little cubby hole under his old bed in the Slytherin dormitories. The Healers at St. Mungo's say that my hand will most likely never heal. All I can do is keep changing the bandage.

I take a deep swig of Firewhisky straight from the bottle. I think I'll order another, I need it badly today. I can still see them lined up in rows near the remains of Hagrid's old cabin; all dead. All of them. Anyone and everyone who ever gave a damn about me, and more.

Both Ron and Hermione died right beside me; I buried them together. They would've wanted it that way.

Lupin and Tonks are buried together, too. They had been married little more than a month -- so happy despite everything crumbling around them. Lupin had finally found someone who loved him for who he was, instead of what he was. I think in a way it was like being with the Marauders again (with the exception of Pettigrew, of course). But he's long gone anyway. Voldemort had been furious when Pettigrew destroyed the fifth Horcrux, Nagini, repaying the Wizard's Debt he owed me.

The only Weasleys left are Bill and Percy. Bill is barely getting along, preparing for seven funerals took a lot out of him, but he'll make it. He's still got Fleur, and I expect that once Bill's better she'll be wanting some little one-eighth Veelas to bring them some happiness. Percy's almost as bad of an alcoholic as I am, on top of being a workaholic. I can't be around him; he's so full of guilt and grief that it just oozes off of him. He apologizes constantly. I suppose he should; he stuck by the Ministry until the end, even after Scrimgeour was murdered and Cuthbert Mockridge was put into office.

McGonagall's gone, too; she never should have been out there in the first place. She was powerful, but frail. Old Flitwick's Headmaster now; Sprout's Deputy Headmistress. Students went back that September, but attendance was low, and it took a while to repair the castle and recruit more teachers. I hear that there are hardly any seventh years left to take the N.E.W.T.'s.

I killed Snape; I'll never know which side he was truly on. I didn't give him the chance to explain. He was ready to go anyway, I basically put him out of his misery. But no matter what, I did it for Dumbledore. I doubt I'll ever understand the night he died.

Aberforth Dumbledore's dead as well; he helped me explore the Pensieve and understand more about the Ravenclaw Horcrux. He was the one that helped us -- me, Hermione, Ron, and Ginny -- discover where it was.

Unbidden Ginny's face flickers before my mind's eye. I take a huge gulp of Firewhiskey -- it's almost gone now, I've been sipping it ever since I got it -- but her image doesn't fade. She had been our contact at Hogwarts, perusing the Library for anything useful. She had told me repeatedly that she was waiting for me, but that bitch Lestrange got her. I reciprocated not a heartbeat later, but it was too late. Bellatrix took away my second chance at having a happy future -- first with Sirius, then Ginny. I hope she's rotting in Hell.

I've drained my bottle. I beckon Tom back over and order another. He purses his lips. "Very well, Mr. Potter, but this is your last one."

I nod wearily as he walks away. No problem -- I've got some stashed in my room upstairs, along with plenty of Dreamless Sleep Potion. Madam Pomfrey tries desperately to talk to me about my addictions every time I see her in the street, which is, thankfully, rare.

My new bottle of Firewhisky arrives. It's hard to make these memories go away.

I have no job; if I ever forget the past nineteen years, I'll clean myself up and apply for Auror training. Right now I live in a room upstairs, and I live off the gold that everyone left me. I have too much.

Flitwick's tried to offer me the Defense Against the Dark Arts position, but I can't. Hogwarts holds too many memories, both good and bad.

Half of my new bottle's already gone. Technically this is my fifth today, and it's not even noon yet. Everything is beautifully distorted.

All of a sudden Neville Longbottom's face is swimming before my eyes. I lurch back sharply; I know I look horrible. Swallowing bucketloads of Firewhisky and Dreamless Sleep isn't the best thing in the world to do for yourself, especially when those things are all that you consume. I only eat when I remember or absolutely have to. If I walked into St. Mungo's, they'd probably have me in a room in five seconds flat.

Neville looks good, though; he's no longer the insecure, round-faced boy who couldn't find his toad on the train ride to Hogwarts.

"Harry? Is that you?"

I nod, or at least I think I'm nodding.

"Yep, that's me."

He's one of the few left from our year. Susan Bones and Ernie McMillan got married a few months ago, Dean Thomas and Lavender Brown just got engaged, and I hear Blaise Zabini's following in his mother's footsteps. And I know that Neville's fast becoming a famous Herbologist, specializing in Healing plants.

I hear Neville let out a long breath. "Come on Harry. I'll take you to your room."

I drain the last drops from the Firewhiskey bottle. "I'm comin', I'm comin'," I mutter as I stand up, swaying. He grabs my arm, but I wrench away and stumble over to the stairs. Tom must have held Neville back, because he didn't follow me. Or maybe he doesn't care.

I fumble my way upstairs -- it's miraculous that I made it- and through the door to my room, collapsing on my bed. As I reach under my bed for the Dreamless Sleep -- memories are still assaulting me from all directions -- I think about just ending it all. There's no point in living anymore; I've done my duty. I made my choice and followed through. I'm done. And I miss my friends desperately.

I pick up a full bottle of the purple potion and pause. Will a whole bottle of potion send me behind the veil? Might as well find out.