“Every man dies- Not every man really lives.” William Ross Wallace
Aesthetically speaking, McLaggen’s Pub is not particularly extraordinary by any means. It’s located about a block away from the main stretch of downtown Diagon Alley on a lonely looking corner next to a quaint coffee shop.
Its exterior is unremarkable, composed of tan brick with its name scrawled across its vicinity in black, bold medieval type handwriting. One wouldn’t expect a generic bar such as this one to attract so many people. But it does.
Granted, since it boasts such an inconvenient location, its tourist population remains scare, yet McLaggen’s doesn’t need a lot of tourist business since it steadfastly remains one of the more popular pubs in Diagon Alley with the locals, managing to rope in witches and wizards of all ages and backgrounds from Squibs to purebloods alike.
You wouldn’t think it’s all that busy, but trust, me once you push open its hand painted Victorian style door, you witness something that completely contradicts the stillness outside.
The environment is a thriving hub of activity, filled to capacity with customers of every sort ranging from young adults to married couples to underage teens attempting to swindle the bartenders into serving them firewhiskey.
And the bartenders, oh the bartenders. They’re a unique, well, diverse group of individuals. First you have Rob, the cantankerous half blood Scotsman with an eyebrow ring and a badass scruffy beard. Trust me, it’s badass. I managed to touch it once way back in the day before he threatened to burn my hand with his wand. Don’t worry he didn’t actually hurt me. To the extent of my knowledge he hasn’t physically hurt anyone however he has made a substantial number cry and even made one guy pee his pants. He’s a bit aggressive but if you aren’t overly annoying he’ll leave you alone, trust me.
Then there’s Chelsea who is, pardon me for saying this, but one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever encountered in my life. She is the ideal mixture of masculine and feminine, of smoking hot yet can still kick anyone’s ass up and down the block and she has the muscles to prove it. Also the tattoos interspersed up and down her arms indicated that she was not a woman to be messed with.
There’s a whole bunch of other bartenders who I simply can’t remember but they don’t matter. Most of them quit or have nervous breakdowns primarily due to the last person I need to mention. Let’s get one thing straight Peter Vasquez was a nasty tool. But he was also the owner so sadly bartenders needed to adhere to his orders.
Peter is preoccupied with money, success and status, which is to be expected due to his flourishing business and seemingly indestructible youth. After his uncle died and left him this bar, he scrambled to make it successful again, funneling excessive amount of money into upping the quality of the food, and instilling monthly trivia contests and daily drink specials. The consequence resulted in more business than the bar could handle, leading, of course, to overwhelming success. That’s why Peter’s ego is the size of a baby elephant, which strangely enough, has causes him to become acutely paranoid.
That’s why he’s always in the same corner, just behind the bar. See him? He’s right there with his chicken arms crossed over his chest, wearing the same oversized white button down shirt. If you ever feel a chilling, tingling sensation on the back of your neck like someone’s watching you, it’s Peter. But don’t worry he’s not here to yell at you or run you out or anything. He doesn’t care. In fact he doesn’t actually see you as a real person, just a giant money bag and the sooner you pay, the less you have to worry about.
Anyways, that’s the lovely set of characters that make up this charming establishment. But why have I given you so many pointless, irrelevant anecdotes about one lousy bar you ask? I have a point, trust me. See in order to understand the hero of this story you must understand McLaggen’s. This bar sets the backdrop for not only future events but integrates itself in previous ones as well.
It is where our hero spent most of his fleeting moments of youth, where he went to celebrate his great accomplishments and wallow in his deepest miseries. It is where he found love and lost it then found it again, where he experienced truly remarkable moments of friendship and watched hopelessly as a dear friend vanished from his life. But more on that in a moment.
Our story begins on a Thursday night. There was nothing particularly special about this Thursday, it wasn’t a holiday or attached to a three-day weekend it was just another day of the week. The bar was moderately full, lacking in the younger set but the regulars were there grabbing a quick butterbeer after a long work day.
Chelsea was performing her usually tasks, wiping down tables, filling drink orders and avoiding drunken stares like they were infectious diseases. She was making her way towards Peter, who, you guessed it, was there behind the bar observing from his sad little corner, when a drunken fellow lunged at her in one pathetic attempt to show her how cool he was. Unfortunately, she moved away from him at the last second and he ended up falling off a table. Gotta love Chelsea. She reached Peter in record time with use of her freakishly muscular legs.
“We need more Firewhiskey.” She told him. Peter shifted his button down so his huge sweat stains weren’t painfully obvious. He wasn’t immune to the sight of a beautiful woman.
“That’s impossible. We had three full bottles this afternoon and it’s not even that crowded.” He said. Chelsea shrugged.
“I don’t know. It’s a pretty popular drink.”
“Alright we have more in the back.” Peter moved out of the way to let Chelsea through then eyed the clientele suspiciously. If he was forced to get extra bottles of firewhiskey he would have to cut back on quiz night that month. And that month the subject was “Wizarding Rock Bands” and he knew
how important pseudo rebellious music was to the younger crowd and he couldn’t afford to cut the budget on that. So he was extra bitter that precious firewhiskey would be wasted on some sad alcoholic instead of more customers. I told you he was a jerk, right?
Anyways, Chelsea came back with two full bottles in her hands and gave Peter a quick smile before scurrying back to the bar. There, she performed her duties as usual. She came up to a particular man who just looked, well, like crap.
It was apparent that he chose to bathe on very selective occasions, his hair looked like a family of raccoons had effectively moved in and with his scraggly beard, he looked eerily reminiscent of the Unabomber. But the most frightening and possibly the most heart-wrenching feature about this man was his eyes.
They were so bright and blue seemingly once filled with such promise and potential but now seemed to ache with melancholy resignation and despondence. The way his whole torso slumped feebly over the bar gave passersby a sense of unease for they could see the man’s will to hang on was lessening by the minute. Nearly all the occupants avoided him except for Chelsea bless her heart. She gently pried the empty glass from his calloused hand.
“Can I refresh your drink for you?” She asked pleasantly. The man said nothing but simply bobbed his head and Chelsea chewed her bottom lip as she stiffly nodded and began refilling.
Now this man was sad, but not stupid. He caught onto her disapproval quickly. He was aware that Chelsea knew why her bar ran out of firewhiskey so fast. It wasn’t because a rowdy group of people knocked back drinks like they were water or that it just happened to be an extremely busy night. He alone had knocked back drinks like they were water. She knew this and still served him despite her uneasiness.
“You don’t think I should have another.” He stated. Chelsea gave a flippant gesture.
“I’m the bartender not your mum. You can have as much firewhiskey as your heart desires.” The man scoffed.
“Don’t hold back. Why don’t you tell me how you really feel?” Chelsea delicately placed another full glass in front of him.
“Because of my errr current situation I’ve become pretty adept at reading people’s body language. And you do not approve of me drinking so much.”
“Is that so?” Chelsea cocked her head. “How is my body telling you that?” The man almost smiled in that distant, wistful way.
“The biting of the bottom lip, the stiffness in your neck, the tightening of your muscles, that charming edge in your voice. You’re clearly very uncomfortable.”
“Maybe that’s how I always am. Maybe I’m always stiff. You don’t know me.” The man regarded her with almost an intimate affection, switching the tone of his voice to become softer, gentler, as if he were speaking with a dear friend.
“Come on, Chels, I think I actually do know you better than that.” She had been wiping down tables before he said that but upon hearing this, Chelsea, stopped mid wipe and stared him down. Soon, she broke from his gaze and went back to wiping.
“I just don’t understand why you won’t go.” She almost whispered this, and quickly ducked her head, pretending to be engrossed in a particular stain on the bar. The man pressed two fingers to his forehead and rubbed as if he were expecting a migraine.
“You know I can’t do that.”
“Why? He was your friend. I don’t understand.”
“Because I just can’t
Chels, ok? It’s too hard. I’m only human.”
“But it’s your best friend’s funeral! It’s one of those once in a lifetime events where it’s kind of important that you be there. People are counting on you.
“Stop with the lecture, Chelsea. You know it’s much more complicated than that.”
“What’s complicated about it?” A beat of silence followed. “I think you’re being a coward.” She contested.
“I don’t think I asked for your opinion!” He rarely lost his temper before the incident. He was often regarded as a tranquil, shy, wonderfully awkward man who enjoyed books and good company. But after the incident, he transformed into something unrecognizable.
It’s not as if he tortured small animals now or punched babies. But it was a sizable personality change, enough for everyone to notice. Now whenever he would come to this damn town everyone would stare at him a bit longer than before as if they were trying to decipher where his former mores had gone.
He attempted to tune all of them out. They didn’t matter. None of them did except for Chelsea who had been at least partially involved in his life before. And now he had hurt her.
She looked crushed after the shock of him snapping at her set in. Chelsea, not being the type of woman to cry openly in public, turned away from him, and waved her wand in a swift, aggressive manner. A black leather folder swooped into her outstretched hand and she slammed it down in front of him.
“Like I said before I just serve the drinks. It’s none of my business how you live your life. Good night sir.” She said testily then disappeared behind the bar. The man frowned. Never in the entire span of their relationship had Chelsea ever resorted to such formal terms. He concluded that she must really be upset. And he alone had caused it. Despicable.
The man impatiently waved his wand at the piece of paper. His signature appeared at the bottom in flawless cursive, Remus J. Lupin
. He took a moment to study his name finding it fascinatingly abhorrent that he despised every facet of himself even something as innocuous as his name. He tossed his money indiscriminately onto the table, deciding that he had hurt enough individuals for one day.
He trudged home so thoroughly caught up in his broken spirit that he seemed to have very little concern for his
physical safety and his
well being. It was as if he was in a state of surrender; no matter what abhorrent thing that may or not happen to his body surely couldn’t be worse than the debilitating sadness he felt inside.
Back in the bar, Chelsea busied herself with cleaning, not giving herself a chance to think about the previous incident. And why should she? She was vibrant, young and full of life and it was not necessary for her to involve herself in such depressing matters. Peter walked over to her.
“That man who left- what’s his name?”
“Remus Lupin. Come on Peter you know him. He and his friends have been coming to this place for months.” Peter didn’t seem the least bit perturbed by this lack of knowledge.
“Right, right. Which one of them died?” Chelsea felt acutely uncomfortable speaking to her boss about such intimate details of a person’s life in such a cavalier manner. She watched out the window as Remus apparated into the night.
“Sirius Black died. About two months ago.” Peter shrugged.
“That’s a pity.” Peter remarked with superficial condolence.
“Yeah.” Chelsea remarked blandly. “Pity.” She waited until Peter was completely out of the vicinity to cradle her head in her hands. Maybe she did this out of pure empathy or maybe she did it in act of desperation, willing herself to refrain from wallowing in other people’s troubles. Either way she seemed to be in a similar dark state as the man, our hero in this story, was in.
But why do you ask does this man, this forlorn wretch of a man called Remus with seemingly nothing to live for hold such significance? He doesn’t.
He’s no different from any other generic individual on the street who’s just trying to wade through all the crap life gives them so they can experience fleeting moments of pristine happiness. But he remains the protagonist in this tale because I am that forlorn wretch of a man. That man wallowing in his misery, depressed, hurt, angry and needlessly aggressive, yes that’s me. And I’m no hero trust me. Not even close.