Disclaimer: "Harry Potter" is the property of JK Rowling.


"Calling out somebody save me, I feel like I'm fading away; am I gone?" -- Sara Bareilles, "City"

The fifth anniversary of Voldemort's death was overcast and grey, marked by frequent bursts of cold, hard rain. It was a day that, in the past few years, had become something of a national holiday, with raucous parties and celebratory gatherings held long into the night. Pubs and restaurants were packed with joyful, and usually drunk, witches and wizards, and revelers filled the streets long into the night. Even with the rain, bright, crackling fireworks were set off nearly constantly, flashing colours over Diagon Alley.

Angelina Johnson did not attend these parties. She had once, with Alicia and Oliver Wood, but it had been a disaster of epic proportions that had convinced her that her over-indulgence of alcohol was best done alone. Or at least in the company of strangers. In the last five years, she'd spent quite a bit of time in the company of strangers. Other people for whom, like her, the day was marred by the loss of loved ones.

She twisted the ring on her left hand idly, glad, at least, that she was sober today. It was the first time this day had rolled around that she hadn't been totally pissed. Not that she hadn't gone out -- it was too painful being in her flat alone, thinking that she hadn't seen Fred Weasley in five years. Missing him made her feel sixty, rather than twenty-five, and it was the thought of all those years stretching before her, bleak and empty, that drove her to a quiet pub for a pint. It helped her to be surrounded by people, to know that life did go on, that her life could go on, and all she needed was the resolve to make it. She hadn't succeeded yet, though she knew things were better than they had been. 'Course, it would be hard for things to be worse.

"Hey," a man off to her left said suddenly, "you're that Quidditch player. Ballycastle Bats, right?"

She glanced at him, splaying her hands on the table, hoping he'd see her ring and take the hint. "Yeah," she answered perfunctorily, promptly returning to her thoughts. Her friends didn't know what to do with her anymore. They'd managed to stop her self-destructing -- barely -- but she could tell they didn't really know how to treat her. Except Alicia, who was, Angelina sometimes thought, the only reason she'd made it this far. Alicia didn't pry or make her feel ashamed of her life (not that she needed anyone to make her feel ashamed, as she was quite capable of feeling that way on her own). Of course, she'd been privy to the darkest period of Angelina's life, and it wasn't out of the question that Alicia was just concerned for her delicate mental state.

"Can I buy you a drink?" It was the man sitting at the table next to her again.

"No, thanks," she answered, still not really paying attention to him.

To her intense annoyance, he stood up and sat down again, this time at her table. "You're not out celebrating, either?"

"Obviously not," she replied, not bothering to smile. Or to be polite, for that matter. For the first time, she took a better look at him. He was older than her and seemed to have broken his nose (or had it broken, more likely), possibly on more than one occasion. She wished he'd just leave her alone. There was only one person whose presence she'd welcome right at that moment, and unless she held a séance, he wouldn't be turning up.

"Do you mind me asking why not?"

Angelina sighed a little. "I do, in fact." So sod off, she wanted to add.

He either didn't care or hadn't even really heard her. "Don't care for the crowds, meself. Makes me claustrophobic. Anyway, all the interesting types hang about these sorts of places."

No, Angelina wanted to say, all the bereft and anti-social types hung about these sorts of places. "Hm," she said noncommittally. Playing Quidditch professionally was a dream come true for her, and often these days she used training to keep herself sane, but it did tend to attract these types of people every so often. Alicia had said that there was a certain type of man that liked the challenge of pursuing a woman like her, and when Angelina had demanded to know what that meant, Oliver had supplied, "Surly." In response, she had threatened to jinx him, and he said, "That just proves my point, doesn't it?"

Her unwanted companion didn't even seem to notice her surliness (which she thought was at a level that would make even Oliver proud) and was eyeing her in a way she didn't like. "Sure I can't buy you a drink?"

She pressed her lips together before replying, "Quite sure." Maybe it would be better to go home and wallow in misery there. She might be alone with her thoughts, but she'd also remove herself from the presence of this man.

When she stood up, the man actually looked surprised. "Leaving already?"

"Yes," she said shortly. As an afterthought, she added, in rather the same curt tone (but it was the thought that counted, after all), "Have a nice night."

"I will," he called to her back as she pushed open the door and walked outside into a driving rain. With a shiver, she pulled her sweatshirt closer around her. As she passed happy groups of people, she couldn't help but feel more detached than ever before from the Wizarding world. It was all she'd ever known, but often she felt...removed. Like she was fading, as a witch and as a person. She dreaded the day she became too old to play Quidditch, because it was the one thing that kept her anchored and gave her something to work for and fill her time with. Without it, she might really just drift off into her own little monochrome world -- her small flat, her fading memories, her already exasperated friends.

Ahead, she spotted a party that had spilled out of a pub and into the street, and to avoid the throng of people, she ducked into an alley that she knew cut through. Lost in thought, she didn't notice the figure standing in her path until she was practically on top of him.

"Hello again," he said, and she started as she recognised the man from the pub.

"You," she said, trying to keep the alarm out of her voice. She was an excellent witch, she could handle one twat following her.

"Let me walk you home."

"I don't think so," she snapped, reaching back to pull her wand out of the waist of her jeans.

"Right." His voice suddenly grew harder. "All I need is a bit of dosh, then. Gimme your handbag and that's all it has to be. Your choice."

"Piss off," she snarled, then drew her wand out and held it ready.

The man gave her a nasty smile, and before she had a chance to do anything, a spell hit her from behind. As she fell to the ground, unable to move or speak and moments from blacking out, she saw several shadowy forms closing in around her. And then there was nothing.