Chapter 1 : Late on a Spring Night
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“Death is but the great next adventure.” Albus Dumbledore (J K Rowling, “The Half Blood Prince”).
It was a late spring evening. Harry Potter and his now wife, Ginny, were leisurely strolling down Covent Garden holding hands. Earlier in the day, they had had the luxury or roaming through the market to their hearts’ content, in a world where nobody recognised them; they’d had the privilege of consuming several speciality coffees and the odd glass of wine unnoticed, far away from the prying eyes of the likes of Rita Skeeter.
Even though the stalls in the actual market were now closed, the colour and vibrancy of this London landmark still permeated the air. Latin American performers busked away into the hours leading to midnight. Tourists and locals alike were dinning al fresco, drinking and laughing with their friends. As they were trying to decide which one, of the many inviting establishments, to choose from for their last drink, Ginny was showing Harry enthusiastically a variety of Muggle craft objects she had purchased earlier on.
The war was over, Harry thought, he had his girl, many loyal friends, he was rich, he had managed to secure his choice of career; everything seemed perfect.
Ginny motioned towards one of the outside tables of one of the bars. The weather was hot for the time of the year and this, coupled with the festive atmosphere of their surroundings, reminded her of the holiday they had just had in Mexico; she couldn’t resist ordering two Margaritas. She took a small sip as she tipped the waiter and kissed Harry on the lips. They had gone through enough, especially her husband, she thought, but now, they were living almost in Paradise.
But perhaps not for long. A tawny owl rapped suddenly on their table. They both recognised it instantly as Ron and Hermione’s messenger bird. It carried in his beak the latest copy of "The Daily Prophet", the night edition. This was highly unusual. Ron and Hermione would not bother them with that awful tabloid unless something important or worrying had happened.
Before the couple had a chance to either drink the cocktails or begin to read the paper, a Metropolitan Police officer approached their table.
“Mr Harry James Potter?” the policeman enquired.
Ginny frowned in lack of understanding.
“Yes, that’s me. I guess it’s about the vehicle again,” Harry butted in, rolling his eyes. “I’m truly sorry. I forgot how long it’s been parked there,” he said sheepishly, “I hope you haven’t clumped it yet or anything. Look, I’m happy to pay the whole night's fare, since we would like to relax with a drink and were going to take a taxi in the end in any case,” Harry offered hopeful.
“Sir, we tracked you down because of your vehicle, yes, but this has nothing to do with a traffic offence. You’re safe on that one, although it may be an idea for you to go and get the correct ticket,” the plump man said, not being really interested in Harry’s parking issues and not really looking forward either to what he had to do next.
Harry and Ginny glanced simultaneously at the copy of the “Daily Prophet” and at one another. They both recognised instantly the identity of the person featured in the front page, a fellow alumni of Hogwarts and member of the “Slug Club;” the chap whose uncle had invented the Wolfsbane potion: Marcus Belby.
At that very moment, the policeman showed Harry a picture. Harry instantly recognised it as a wizarding one. However, given the normality with which the officer was treating it, Harry realised that, in his Muggle eyes, it didn’t move. He smiled in a sad way. Wizarding photography had brought to his mind the memory of another fellow student, one who had fought bravely and who had lost his life as a result: Colin Creevy.
Ginny went pale realising at once that not all was well. Harry held her tight and tried to brace himself for what he was about to hear. The police didn’t just approach someone with a photograph for no reason and Belby had never been a trouble-maker. They both knew there and then that something terrible must had happened.
“Do you recognise this young man, sir?” the officer prompted.
Harry and Ginny both silently nodded.
“Could you confirm his name?”
Husband and wife replied in unison: “Marcus Belby, we went to the same school.”
“There has been an incident tonight, I’m sorry to say. His family have requested that you be informed, “ the cop continued.
Harry took his glasses off without thinking and his eyes blinked.
“What… what’s happened?” Harry enquired in a slightly panicky tone of voice.
“I take that you knew him well.”
“Not really, we went to school together, as I’ve said but I wasn’t in his close circle. You have mentioned his family, sir?”
“Well, it appears, “ started the police officer clearing his throat, “that the young fellow was involved in a fight in a bar in Sidcup, near where he lived.” He paused.
Harry couldn’t but notice that the policeman had used the past tense. He gave him an enquiring look, without speaking begging him to continue.
“We believe that another young guy had provoked him and his friends, his brother amongst them.”
Harry wasn’t aware of Marcus having had a brother, but then again, he had never had the chance to get to know him properly. It was obvious that this had all happened in a Muggle bar. He had always assumed that Belby must have been a pure blood, since he had an illustrious relative and Slughorn had been keen to welcome him into his inner circle. He now suspected that he must have been a half-blood or his brother a squib, perhaps, but then again himself and Ginny were now spending a great deal of time in the Muggle world too.
The officer proceeded: “The attacker was armed with two knives, according to eye witnesses. It would seem that his brother was physically threatened and that your former school-mate intervened hoping to prevent his sibling from coming to harm, but he, himself was stabbed and pronounced dead on his arrival at the hospital,” he concluded sullenly.
Harry swallowed hard and held Ginny’s hand really tightly. He noticed how her eyes were now becoming humid and her hands shaky. He gave her a comforting squeeze. So, he had died trying to save others! This was just so unfair, so uncalled for, so intolerable!
“Sir, going back to his family…Did they said why they wanted me to be informed? Harry asked timidly.
“When we arrived at the scene, there was a lot of confusion, and several other casualties. His mother was inconsolable, as you can well imagine, but she mentioned your name and asked us if we could let you know. She didn’t add very much on that note, but she mentioned that her son did admire you for how brave you had been, I guess you understand what she might have meant by this.”
Harry’s bright green eyes were beginning to fill up too. What right did he have to be looked upon like that? He, who had managed to survive so many times, who always got off somehow!
“She said that she’d be honoured if you wished to say a few words at the funeral service.” It wasn't really customary for a member of the police acting in a professional capacity to pass on this kind of personal message but he had been at the scene and despite his line of work, had been touched by the whole incident.
Harry felt honoured indeed, but also extremely inadequate. It was ironic that he, the Boy Who Lived, could possibly be of any comfort to the family of the young man who hadn’t. He didn’t know what to best say or do, what could he say?
“I can take you to the hospital, if you’d like to. The family are still there, but no obligation, of course, sir, you’re not in any way the subject of our investigation. You can see about your parking predicament first, if you wish,” the policeman told him with a look of consternation in his face and added: “they said they would be happy to see you there.”
“Forget the parking ticket! There are more important things to worry about after all. Did you catch the culprit, by the way?” Harry asked praying that justice could be done, eager to play a part in putting this terrible world to rights. Harry now wondered whether the Belbys hadn't indirectly been asking for his help with his Auror skills, but they hadn't wanted the Muggle authorities to know about this.
“We’ve got someone, yes, sir.”
Harry and Ginny sighed. “We’ll come with you, if that’s alright. This is my wife, Ginny by the way,” Harry added, realising he had forgotten to introduce her.
As he said this, he took a large gulp from his Margarita. Although he was sure that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the drink, it tasted sour. He had to contain himself from spitting it out.
They all walked in auto-pilot to the cop’s car and took a seat at the back. Harry and Ginny cuddled once again. That was the shattered dream, though Harry. He had been so engrossed working as an auror and living some of the high-life as a Muggle, that he had failed to understand what’d been going on around him. He had heard many times in the news about teenage stabbings and so forth, but he had had so much on his plate ever since he had known he was a wizard, that he hadn’t actually properly reacted. Now, the time had come for him to make his contribution to a society he had partly lived in all his life. He just knew it. Despite the fact that he despised politics, he knew he was charismatic, maybe he could raise awarness, somehow. He was now a Londoner after all; it was about time that he concentrated his efforts on making a difference, in the Muggle world also, yes!
Then, suddenly, as he was about to begin to sob in his wife’s bosom, the words that the Belby family have apparently asked him for, came to him: “True immortality can only be achieved by those who would forever be remembered fondly.” Then, he though of Dumbledore: “Death is but the great next adventure,” and also recalled how Belby had done “what was right, rather than what was easy.”