Chapter One: Three Weeks
Three weeks since Harry Potter had hidden himself away from the world, both Muggle and Wizarding. Through no fault of his own, his mind had started to encroach on him. Waking up in cold sweats of a night-time, mind flashing back to the trauma he'd faced from childhood until the last days of the 2nd Wizarding War.
Three weeks since Ginny Weasley had found Harry's torment to be too much for her, and thought it best to leave, for her sake and his.
"I'm so sorry Harry. I don't want this to mean we can't be friends. I'll always love you like that. If and when you get on top of your demons… I'll be there."
She'd gripped his hand tightly and kissed him on the forehead as she left, sobbing uncontrollably as she'd taken the Floo back to the Burrow.
Harry couldn't blame her at all. He'd become… not unbearable, but difficult, in the way those who had their demons were difficult to bear. He was unstable, but never malicious. He'd spent so long bearing the burdens of many, suppressing and packing away the traumas and the hardships he felt, that when the strife ended in the Wizarding World and all came to know peace… it caught up with him.
Three weeks since his days became greyer, and greyer, until they'd become damn-near pitch black.
The letters were piling up from the post owls every morning, but he didn't even look at the envelopes. He had many knocks on the door, but he never answered. That was how he wanted it… for now at least.
The fog in his mind, from his past, became part of him. He felt no purpose any more, no joy, no sorrow, but only nothing. Existing on Muggle takeaway meals and doing nowt other than watch Muggle television, his existence became drudgery. The black dog was on his shoulder, weighing him down at every step.
Three weeks since any human contact.
Harry had spoken to no one other than Kreacher, the house elf, since Ginny left 12 Grimmauld Place. In truth, while Kreacher had been as miserable as he was at one point, he was company, and that was enough aside from the pleasantries he'd give to the Muggles working behind the counter at the takeaways he'd visit nightly.
On the first day of the fourth week, there was another knocking on Harry's door. It woke him from his slumber on the sofa, clad in only a grey t-shirt, stained with last night's and pyjama bottoms. He had no intention of answering until a deep, booming voice rang through.
"Harry, we've been trying to get to you for nearly a month! Open up or I'm kicking the bloody door down." It sounded like Kingsley Shacklebolt, Harry's boss, but he was never normally sounding that agitated… but, in order to not risk the ire, or the bill incurred by replacing the door, he got up and answered, barely being able to say hello before Kingsley wrapped him in a strong, paternal hug and closed the door behind him.
"We're having a word. Now." Kingsley said sternly, striding past Harry into the living room and taking a seat on an armchair. Harry took a second to give Kingsley a look as he walked in, and saw he was in a Muggle suit, unusual for the Minister of Magic to wear.
"Kingsley… is that a-"
"Suit, yes. I've got a meeting with the Prime Minister in an hour, I stopped here on my way." Kingsley interrupted, motioning for Harry to sit down, who did so without thinking.
"Radio silence for three bloody weeks Harry. Three! Bloody! Weeks! I've had letters, Floo visits from Molly bloody Weasley worrying her poor bloody heart out about you and everyone under the bloody sun wondering where you are. We thought you'd topped yourself! Tell me what the hell is going on. I'll postpone the bloody meeting if I have to."
"You say bloody a lot when you're angry, don't you Kingsley." Kingsley cracked a grin under his concerned façade and chuckled to himself.
"Yeah, I do. I would have said worse but I think it's… unbecoming of a gentleman to be so uncouth." Harry cracked a small smile for the first time in weeks at that, shifting forward and putting his hands together.
"You've had Molly visiting you? Christ, that must have been painful." "
The bruising has only just gone down from the other day. She's got a right hook on her, I'll tell you that much."
Harry smiled again, feeling some sudden rushes of emotion for the first time in nearly a month.
"Now Harry… tell me about what's happened, or been happening. I'll give you all the time you need, but I can tell that it's something not quite right."
Harry sighed deeply, and shouted for Kreacher to make him and Kingsley a cup of tea each, before looking up and starting to speak.
"W-well… I think… I think everything has caught up with me. You know, about the War. I know it's been a few years but only now, is it really sinking in for me, all the trauma, all the horrible things that Voldemort and the Death Eaters did, all the shit, basically." Kingsley leaned forward and gave a slight nod as Harry spoke.
"I definitely bottled it up. Far more than I should. I know it's not an excuse, but I used to talk to Sirius, or Dumbledore about things like this, and with them gone, it's all piled up. I've swept it all under the rug and just let it fester."
"When did the nightmares start?"
Harry looked briefly shocked at this. "What do you mean?" Kreacher entered the room, mumbling greetings to Harry and Kingsley before placing their mugs of tea down on the coffee table, asking both if they wanted biscuits before leaving after a curt shake of the head from both.
"Harry, that's post-traumatic stress disorder. Telltale signs of it. Everyone who got caught up in the war dealt with it. Hell, I have flashbacks some nights, right back to the first war when I watched giants rip people open in the West Country Massacre. You've been a bloody idiot for keeping it in for this long. But it takes a lot of courage to admit it in the first place." Kingsley took his mug of tea and had a long gulp before starting up again.
"I don't know how open you are to the idea of therapy, but there's a service that runs at St Mungo's. I've used it myself and… it helped me. Don't worry about paying, it's all covered by the insurance." Harry looked down at his own mug of tea. Thinking.
"You're not weak for going Harry. You hear all that bollocks about being a 'real man' and 'keeping strong' but that kind of thing is absolute crap. If you need help, you get it." Kingsley drained the rest of his tea in another long gulp and got up, summoning Kreacher and thanking him for the tea, giving him the empty cup and handing him a bronze Knut in thanks.
"Don't worry about work, take as long as you need away from the department. I'll let everyone know I had a talk with you as well, and I'll say to leave you be until you're ready to talk a bit more. And please..." Kingsley looked at the pile of letters on the desk in the corner of the room and sighed. "Open your bloody post; most of that is Molly's writing, God forbid she sends a bloody howler."
Harry let out a laugh and had a sip of tea, getting up and giving Kingsley a hug. "Thanks Kingsley. Is it running now?"
"Yeah, I'll send a quick Patronus message. You want to go today?"
"I may as well, or else I'd be watching Muggle telly and eating in my boxers." Kingsley chuckled again and shook his head.
"To be honest, I'd rather watch telly than see the Prime Minister right now… I've ended up quite liking Holby City." Harry started laughing at this again, remembering how dramatic and strangely addictive hospital dramas were, and surprised that Kingsley of all people enjoyed it. "Don't look at me like that Harry, I had to stay in a lot of Muggle hotels when I was on the run, thank goodness for TV in every room."
Kingsley went to step out of the door before Harry stopped him. "Kingsley? I just wanted to say… thank you. I've shut a lot of people out but you got through to me today. I… I owe you one."
"Harry, I did it because I care. Now, I'll send the Patronus to St Mungo's once I'm in the car, they should have an appointment ready by about…" Kingsley looked down at his watch, a quizzical look on his face. "Half-one. It's eight-thirty now, so you've got time for a bath and a shave before going. You sure you want to go though?"
Harry simply nodded, wiping some of the sleep from his eyes that he hadn't earlier. "Yeah… gives me an opportunity to go somewhere other than the Chinese down the road." Kingsley grinned and said "That's the spirit… I'll send you an owl tonight, yeah? I hope this helps you Harry, don't feel beat up if it doesn't; it's not for everyone, but if this doesn't work then I'll sit down with you and we can work something out, alright? I'll see you later."
Kingsley walked off and waved, unlocking his car and stepping inside, Harry just making out Kingsley pulling out his wand, and his Patronus, a Lynx, sitting on the dashboard.
Harry closed the door and shouted out to Kreacher. "Kreacher! Are you there?"
"Yes Master Harry, has Mr Kingsley left?"
"Yes Kreacher… Can you run me a bath? As hot as possible?"
Kreacher nodded and for a second, let a smile twitch at the corners of his lips. "Did Mr Kingsley help you? Kreacher wanted to say something, but Kreacher was afraid..."
"No need to be afraid Kreacher… and yes. Kingsley helped quite a bit..."
AN: This is the first chapter of the fic, strangely enough, so welcome! I found it quite hard to write this, as I was still getting my bearings with how I wanted the story to develop, plus it came with a lot of rust, as I haven't written anything longer than a one-shot for a long time. Hope it's not too bad, and I hope you keep reading and enjoy the story! If not, that's fine, art is subjective after all. :)
PS: There will be musical inspirations for most, if not all of the chapters after this, so so far, this is the only chapter title in mind without a reference to a song/band I like!