I have a friend who knows someone who works for Scholastic and apparently the last Harry Potter book was to have a different epilogue then the one they actually published. Through sheer tenacity and good luck, the original has fallen into my hands. Without further adieu, here is the original epilogue:
Harry awoke to a sharp pounding on the door that matched the pounding in his head. For a few moments, he felt disoriented and unsure of where he was exactly. The worn blue sofa on which he lay, as well as the low metal table in front of him, was littered with empty Butterbeer and Firewhiskey bottles. Harry was cognizant of a peculiar fragrance emitting from an ashtray in which lay the remains of some bitter herb. From the matching smell of his breath, Harry surmised that he must have enjoyed the mallowsweet the night before. The annoying pounding on the door hadn’t ceased, so Harry started to search the worn-out pockets of his dirty, beer-stained robes for his wand. “Just a second,” he called out weakly as he picked up the wand from the floor where it had fallen. “Alohomora!” he said, surprising himself that he could do such a dexterous wand flick considering the state he was in.
The door swung open to reveal Neville. “Thanks. I forgot my key again,” he said breathlessly as he entered the room. “Of course, it would be a lot easier if you just let me Apparate here at will. I mean, I know you like your privacy and all, but I just thought that—well, you know—that because this is my house—don’t get angry again Harry, I’m just telling you how I feel—I think I should be allowed to Apparate into it.”
“C’mon Neville,” Harry said, rubbing his forehead. He hadn’t felt a pain like this for the past nineteen years. Not since before he had destroyed the Horcrux that had been attached to his soul and killed Lord Voldemort. The difference between his current pain and the prior pain, however, was that instead of being privy to the thoughts of an evil wizard, all he could remember was a haze of smoke, alcohol and Romilda Vane. “I’m saved your life enough times. I think you should try to be a little bit more grateful. Besides, you have to remember I was the one who helped you get your cushy little job up at Hogwarts—some friend you are. But…I’m only going to stay for a few days longer. You know the situation between Ginny and me.”
Neville frowned slightly and hesitated before answering with a shrug. “Well Harry, a few more days should be okay. But I’m going back up to Hogwarts soon and I’ve already promised Viktor Krum and his wife that it would be okay for them to stay here while he does some work for the Ministry.”
Harry scowled at the mention of the word Ministry. “I don’t know why those folks at the Ministry are so willing to employ foreigners when they don’t mind letting go of loads of us English wizards,” he muttered darkly. “By the way, Neville, were you up before Romilda left? I didn’t hear her leave.”
“She must have left right after I did. Which reminds me…” Neville’s voiced trailed off a bit. Harry could tell that Neville was uncomfortable and was deciding whether voicing his complaint would be worth it or not. “Harry, I know this might sound insignificant to you, but—uh—in the future could you ask you female friends not to leave their, uh,…the truth is Harry that it’s a bit disconcerting to wake up and find a strange witch’s underclothes strewn about the bathroom. Not that Romilda is strange mind you,” he said, his face looking as though he thought that Harry was growing increasingly hostile to his suggestion.
Harry snorted. “You’re as bad as Ginny, sometimes. All you do is nag, nag, nag. But—and I’m only doing this because I like you—I’ll tell her not to do it anymore. Besides, I don’t think she’ll be coming by much longer. I don’t fancy her as much as I used to anymore—it’s probably a good time to move on anyways. Well, I’ll help you clean up this mess a bit before I pop down to Knockturn Alley for a pint. I don’t want you telling people that I’m a deadbeat.” Harry stood up, his legs unsteady and his head still pounding. “My head’s killing me. I think I’ll need a bit of mallowsweet to get me started though. You have any left?”
Neville shook his head. “I’m shouldn’t really be giving you any. I’ve heard rumors that the Department of Magical Law Enforcement is planning an anti-mallowsweet campaign. Plus I’m worried that if Headmistress McGonagall found out that I had the second year students grow it for you, I’d get the sack.”
“McGonagall, McGonagall,” Harry sneered sarcastically. “You’re starting to sound like a broken Howler. Don’t worry about it. I’ll just clean without it. Evanesco!!” The empty bottles and ashtray vanished. “This used to be a lot easier before they liberated all the House Elves. At the rates those elves charge for their services these days, you’d be flat broke in a month. Anyways, I’m off Neville. I’ll be back in time for dinner. And for goodness sake, when I get home, make sure that you don’t burn it all again. There’s nothing worse than carbonized shepherd’s pie.” Neville nodded slowly as Harry pushed passed him and out onto the street.
Knockturn Alley had changed significantly since Harry had first stumbled upon it before his second year at Hogwarts. Long gone were the stores that sold Dark Arts paraphernalia; Borgin & Burkes, the last holdout, had recently been turned into an upscale health club for well-healed wizarding families and most of the other businesses similarly catered to a more wealthy demographic. Despite the redevelopment, a few of the original non-Dark Arts businesses had managed to survive. Close to the end of the alley, tucked in between a Twilfit & Tatting’s Custom Robe Outfitters and a new Wagstaff’s Wands Outlet, the new American wand manufacturer, was Harry’s favorite pub, the Toe and Slug. Although he had long been a patron of the Leaky Cauldron for many years, certain bad events had pushed Harry into seeking out a new establishment for his business. And since he had moved out from Grimmauld Place, the Toe and Slug sometimes seemed like the only home he had. As he pulled the old door open, the smell of old Firewhiskey filled his nostrils. Relishing the opportunity to indulge his favorite beverage, Harry eagerly entered.
The pub looked even more rundown on the inside than it did on the outside. A few motley wizards sat at a dilapidated table covered with pewter jugs and half-eaten food, close to a small fireplace in the corner, intent on a game of gobstones. An old hag was slumped over in a wooden chair close to the wall, her snores sounding like a Hungarian Horntail clearing its throat. Behind the bar stood Stan Shunpike casually flipping through the pages of the Daily Prophet. Not far from where he stood, a red-haired man sat quietly sipping from a mug of butterbeer that sat in front of him.
“Hey Ron!” Harry called.
Ronald Weasley gave his head a slight nod to acknowledge his friend. “Hey Harry!”
“How’re Hermione and the kids?” Harry asked as he sat on the stool next to Ron.
“They're doing all right. Hugo is starting at Hogwarts in a couple of weeks. I’m supposed to pick up a thing or two for him today, but I got distracted as usual.”
Harry smiled. “I know what you mean. Let’s just hope that Hermione doesn’t find out how you spend most of you day.”
“She probably already knows what I do most days. She doesn’t mind as long as I stay out of trouble. She’d be happy if I found work, but I watch the kids while she spends her day at the Department of Magical Law Enforcement—speaking of which, you still using mallowsweet? You’d better get rid of it. Hermione told me that they’re thinking about a crackdown. Seems they want to change the rules so that you can only use it with a centaur’s permission.” Harry nodded glumly, but didn’t reply. He considered asking Firenze for help, but wondered if the old centaur was too much of a straight arrow to help him out. Harry’s thoughts were interrupted by an arrogant voice behind him.
“Potter and Weasley,” it said. “I thought I could smell your peculiar odor from outside.” Harry and Ron turned around to see a blond, though balding, wizard standing behind them, his hands on his hips, his upper lip twisted into a sneer. The room was tense for a moment before he broke out into a chuckle. “Was I really that much of a jerk at school?”
Harry gave Draco Malfoy a good-natured pat on the back as he sat down. “We can’t really blame you. We were all immature back then and kids can be so nasty to each other,” he said, he said with a shrug. “Although a round of butterbeers would help make Ron and I feel better,” he added with a sly smile. Malfoy nodded at Stan and soon the filled glasses sat in front of them.
“A toast,” Malfoy said, raising his mug, “A toast—you too Stan, lift a glass—to the two best Aurors ever laid off the Ministry.” They clinked their mugs together and each of them took a long draught of the beer.
Ron smacked his lips after the cool liquid had drained down his throat. “Not bad—though I prefer Firewhiskey. It’s got more of a kick to it. Let’s have a round of that Stan!”
A few hours, and several pints, later, Harry and his friends found themselves more than a little tipsy. Though his friends appeared to be in high spirits, with each drink, Harry found his mood growing darker and darker. “Wait a second,” he said, interrupting Malfoy’s refutation of Ron’s theory that the Chudley Cannons were due for a turn around that year. “Ron, Malfoy, you know where I went wrong.” He paused to belch. “I shouldn’t have killed Voldemort so young. You just can’t do something that famous when you’re young. While he was alive, I was the Boy Who Lived. After he was gone I became the Man Who Nobody Cared About. He defined me—he made me a hero—he made me somebody. At age seventeen you fight evil and conquer it—then what? You got sixty years to try and match that. And what happens? You get sixty years to sit around and think about how great the first twenty were. Sixty years of hell.” Ron and Malfoy exchanged uncomfortable glances at each other, but said nothing. Neither of them dared say anything when Harry’s mood turned sour. Harry was completely oblivious to them as he continued his slurred rant. “Sure some people still wave and nod at me, but who really cares about Harry Potter these days? You work hard for fifteen years, putting your neck on the line every day fighting the Dark Arts and then what? The Ministry decides that the Dark Arts aren’t as much as a threat as they used to be and with wizards clamoring for reducing taxes and cutting costs, what choice do they have? You’re out saving the world one day and the next day your boss comes and tells you that there’s an overabundance of Aurors and that the older, more expensive ones are being let go. Of course, they thank you for your service with a shiny plaque and hand you a few galleons to tide you over until your next job.”
“Harry—“ Ron began, but Harry cut him off.
“Next thing you know, you’re stuck at home every day with nothing but Firewhiskey and bad memories for company, trying to get along with a wife who feels you’ve invaded her space and who can’t understand what you’re going through.” He took a long hard swill from mug of Butterbeer, finished the last of it. He slammed the mug down and attempted to stand. As he stood up, his legs gave way and he would have fallen if Stan hadn’t cast a levitating spell right on him that moment. “Thanks Stan,” he said weakly before the half-fermented contents of his stomach ended up on the floor.
His friends stood up beside him. “We’ll take over from here, Stan,” Ron said, grabbing a napkin from the bar to wipe Harry’s face. “We’ll get him home.” Both he and Malfoy grabbed one of Harry’s arms as the three of them stumbled out of the bar and out into the glitzy façade that was Knockturn Alley.
A few days later, Harry stood waiting impatiently on Platform 9 ¾. The platform itself was swarming with kids, wizards, witches, owls, luggage and a house elf or two. He looked at his watch, then up at the platform clock and then scanned the crowd once again for any sign of his wife or children. Ginny’s late as usual, he thought with a frown. If she didn’t get there soon, James and Albus wouldn’t make the train. He scratched his neck. He hadn’t done any shaving charms in the past few days and his facial hair had become long enough that it was starting to get itchy.
As he stood there, fighting the urge to pace back and forth, he heard a voice cry out from behind him. “Uncle Harry!” He turned to see his niece, Rose running towards him, with Ron, Hermione and Hugo close behind. He scooped Rose up and gave her a big hug.
“How are you?” he said as he put her down.
She looked up at him, her brown eyes twinkling. “Sad. Hugo’s going to Hogwarts and Mum and Da’ won’t let me go with ‘im.”
“You’ll get to go soon enough. Hello, Ron, Hugo…Hermione.” He said the last name in a neutral voice. Hermione looked at him coolly, but said nothing. Ever since she had run into him and Hannah Abbott in a compromising situation at the Leaky Cauldron a couple of years back, she had been decidedly less then friendly. Harry surmised that she hadn’t said anything to Ron about the whole mess, but it always made meetings with her uncomfortable.
“Waiting on Ginny?” Ron asked.
“Yeah,” Harry replied. “Just want to say goodbye to my boys before they go to Hogwarts. I haven’t seen them in a few months. Ginny and I get into big arguments if I go over to Grimmauld Place—I’d rather our kids not see that—and Ginny won’t let them visit over at Neville’s, so this is one of my few opportunities.” He glanced down at his watch again before looking at Ron and Hermione’s oldest. “So what house do you think you’ll be sorted into?”
“I hope I’m put in Gryffindor, you know, like you and Mum and Dad.”
Harry nodded. “I guess you’ll find out tonight.” He looked up and saw Ginny struggling to bring three children with their luggage along the platform. “There she is.”
“We’ll get going then,” Ron said. “You probably want to be alone with them.” He beckoned for his family to follow him and they were soon lost in the crowd.
Ginny was huffing and her face was flushed from the effort of marshalling three children by herself. Her face maintained a measure of her good looks, but the birth of three children had been less than kind to her body. Her red hair was hastily tied up in a pony tail and a few stray wisps of hair had managed to escape in her hurry. “How are you Harry?” she managed to say between breaths.
“Fine,” he replied, a little more curt than he intended. He turned his attention on the two boys and girl that stood in front of him. “How are you doing? Are you nervous, Albus?” His oldest son nodded. “I was nervous the first time I went. I didn’t even know how to get onto the right platform, but your Nana Weasley helped me out.” His son nodded once again, but remained silent. Harry had found it increasingly difficult to talk to his son and his estrangement from his wife didn’t help the situation.
Ginny broke the awkward silence. “He’s worried about which house he’ll be sorted into. He doesn’t want be put in Slytherin.”
“No son of mine is going to be in Slytherin.” Harry said, wagging his index finger in his son’s face. “If word comes back to me that the Sorting Hat has put you into that nasty house, there’ll be hell to pay at Hogwarts. That stupid hat almost put me in Slytherin. Sure there are a couple exceptions, but for the most part, kids in Slytherin are a bunch of sniveling—“
“Harry!” his wife’s voice rang out. “Albus is already worried enough as it is. Have a heart!”
Harry gave his wife a hard look and kept quiet for a moment. “Well,” he said, in a low voice, as if the words were being pulled out of him. “Good luck, son. You’ll be fine whatever house you end up in.” He glanced at his wife to see if the answer was acceptable to her. “Run along, kids. I need to say a few things to your mother in private before I leave.” Harry’s children slowly moved down the platform seemingly lost as to where exactly they should go.
“Well, Harry?” Ginny asked. “Where have you been staying?”
“I’m over at Neville’s. It’s been great catching up with him after all these years,” Harry replied. “And now that he’s headed back up to Hogwarts, I’ve got the place all to myself.”
Ginny winced, as if Harry had kicked her in the shins. “I hoped that it wouldn’t have to have come to this, but I’ve been down to speak to my solicitor and I think it might be better if we make this separation more permanent.”
Although he was not surprised by his wife’s feelings, Harry wasn’t sure how to respond. At some levels, it was exactly what he wanted, but it still didn’t stop the intense feeling of loss he had whenever he thought of the possibility of divorce. “Let’s not cross that bridge until we come to it. I’m just trying to work some things out and I need some more time to do that.”
“We can’t wait forever, Harry,” Ginny said. “Albus and James need a father in their life. We’ve—I’ve—been waiting for years. I don’t think we can wait much longer.”
Harry paused and looked around at the crowded platform, as if he had just noticed the throng around them for the first time. “This isn’t the best place or time to discuss this…” He hesitated for a moment before adding, “I’ll stop by later tonight. Say goodbye to the kids for me.” Ginny’s mouth twisted, but she said nothing as Harry slowly turned and walked away.
As he trudged down the platform, a solitary figure in a solitary world, he reached up, almost unconsciously, and gingerly touched the scar on his forehead. It didn’t hurt like it used to, but it had never completely healed. And much like the emotional scars that marred his psyche from which he could not escape, Harry felt his scar made him a marked man, doomed to wander the world, with his only success years behind him and nothing but emptiness and hurt in his future.
Despite his feelings of hopelessness, or maybe because of them, Harry smiled in spite of himself, and once more touched his scar.