Disclaimer: Not mine.
Rating: Err...don't know for sure yet.
Summary: Harry's stuck in a wheelchair after the battle with Voldemort, magically and physically handicapped. On a rare visit outside, Harry sees that a broken down apothecary is hiring. His life is about to change in a dramatic way. HP/SS

Now Hiring
"Feels a Little Desolate"

A sparrow flitted around outside his window, enjoying the warm sunlight of the morning. He sighed gently and pulled the curtain closed. He didn't want to feel sunlight or watch birds.

"Up next, we've got a great new hit from the Weird Sisters. You know, I was so glad when they got back together. They're just too talented to quit the business like that. Speaking of the Weird Sisters, we're going to have the new cellist from the group in the studio for tomorrow morning's show, so you don't want to miss that…"

His hands dropped to the sides of his chair listlessly and pushed the resisting wheels forward, away from the only window in his apartment. His chair creaked and groaned like a little old man. He lifted a hand to cover his eyes and pull at his unkempt hair in frustration. He resisted the urge to grab the tiny radio and slam it against the wall.

The bare light bulb over his head began to flicker. Harry stared at it, as if transfixed by its feeble sputtering.

"Don't you dare go out, you little fucker. Don't you dare," Harry warned, his green eyes flashing as he glared at the yellowed ceiling. In the background, the new song from the Weird Sisters floated out of the radio. They sang through the chorus, oblivious to Harry's battle of wills with his light bulb.

The bulb went out. The apartment was pitched into shadowy darkness, as the heavy curtain over the window was still closed. Harry had no way to change the bulb. He sat in the near darkness gripping the arms of his chair so tightly his knuckles were white. He knew it was irrational to get so angry about a stupid light bulb going out, but he just couldn't control his emotions. His helplessness was absolutely pathetic.

Unable to calm his violent temper, he picked up a half-eaten box of Chinese delivery and flung it with all his strength. The noodles hit the wall with a wet, satisfying smack.

"And that was the Weird Sisters with their smash new hit. In just a second we're going to take some of your calls, have a floo traffic update, and then we're going to play the clip of the Minister of Magic making his address to the Wizengamot…"

Harry was distracted from the spilled food by the mention of the Minister. Harry didn't subscribe to the Daily Prophet anymore, but he'd heard about the new Minister on his radio. He disliked him. Not that his opinion really mattered.

The noodles finally sunk into the dirty carpet, just as Harry lost himself in an old memory.

"You should look at this pamphlet, Harry," Hermione advised, thrusting a shiny folded paper under his nose. Rolling his eyes at her enthusiasm and bossiness, he took the pamphlet and skimmed over it cautiously.

"Politics, Hermione? You know I can't stand the Ministry…"

"Exactly! You could change it. God knows you've got enough influence with the public."

There was an enthusiastic knock on the door. Harry shook his head to clear it of thoughts of the past. It physically hurt him to think of how happy they all had been – how excited about the future. Even he had lost some of his pessimism and had begun to believe, really believe, that he would have a life beyond Voldemort.

What a stupid child he'd been.

Angrily, he wheeled himself towards the dark bedroom, intent on ignoring whoever was at the door.

"Harry James Potter, I know you're in there!"

Harry sighed resignedly and then changed his course. It was Ginny at the door, and Harry knew from experience that the witch would stand on his doorstep knocking for hours until he let her inside. Still irritated, he wheeled to the door and slid the numerous locks open with more force than was necessary. He jerked the door open about a foot wide and scowled.

"What do you need, Ginny?" He asked, not at all politely. Undisturbed by his gruff manners, Ginny smiled brightly at him and displayed her arm full of groceries.

"Well, come on, let me in already! These bags are heavy," she bossed, pushing the door open further with her foot and waltzing right in. She seemed to take no notice of the dirty, run down apartment. Instead, she went straight to the small kitchen with her armload, chatting amiably all the while.

"…and so then Robert offered to take my shift, because I think he wants me to go on a date with him which is so not happening, but I let him take it because I wanted to come make lunch for you. So, how has your morning been?"

Once again, Harry shook his head to clear it. Ginny talked too fast. You'd think he'd get used to it, considering Ginny was the only person he really talked to at all anymore. Sometimes he'd go weeks without seeing another person if Ginny was busy with her job at St. Mungos.

But she'd always come back into his life like a red headed tornado, sweeping into his apartment bearing groceries, muggle cigarettes, and a chick flick.

Harry endured her visits, he told himself, just so he could get his beloved smokes.

As if sensing his thoughts, Ginny tossed a huge box of American cigarettes at him. Greedily, he pulled out a fresh carton and tore the plastic off. Tuning Ginny's babble out, he puffed happily on the cigarette, feeling the tension drain slowly out of his body.

"God, that's just what I needed," he said softly to himself, earning a glare from Ginny because it was obvious he wasn't listening to her. After a few moments, she began chattering again, rightly assuming that if she was going to wait for an apology from Harry she'd be waiting till her hair was white.

After the final battle and the unfortunate events that led him to be stuck in a wheelchair, physically and magically handicapped, Harry had become reclusive. There was a program at St. Mungos that delivered groceries to invalids and the elderly, so Harry had his food delivered twice a month directly to his front porch. This eliminated any real need for him to venture out of his apartment.

Unfortunately, because it was St. Mungos, they didn't deliver cancer sticks. So Ginny always brought him some whenever she came to visit, which was usually once a week or so.

"…so I rented it, even though this one looked even sappier than the ones we usually watch. It's about this girl who gets a heart transplant from this woman who's dead, and then ends up falling in love with the guy who was married to the woman who donated the heart. Romantic, huh?"

Harry took a long drag on his cigarette and let his head tip leisurely to the side.

"That's disgusting, Ginny," Harry replied simply, before blowing a cloud of smoke in her direction. Ginny banished the smoke cloud with a flick of her wand, glaring at him again as she did so.

"You know I hate the smell of those things, and I only bring them to you because I love you so much, so do me a favor and don't blow it back in my face," she snapped irritably, her bubbly smile finally departing. Harry smirked at her, but once again offered no apology. Harry was not the boy he had once been. Ginny could hardly remember how he used to be – his shy smiles, his sweet nature, his caring heart. That Harry seemed like a distant memory now.

She rolled her eyes at him and began to chop up the vegetables for their soup.

"I know bachelors are notorious for being messy, but this is ridiculous, Harry. You've got a metropolis of bacteria in this fridge growing on your cheese. Now that's disgusting. Yuck!" The young witch banished the cheese and cast a cleaning charm on the entire kitchen for good measure. Harry looked away. He hated being reminded of what he could no longer do.

They sat in silence for awhile, Ginny focusing on her recipe while Harry stared blankly at the wall above the tiny television.

Ginny cleared her throat. That was never a good sign. Warily, Harry turned his attention to her.

"I got those forms for you. All you have to do is add your signature. You can get all the paperwork you'll need in just a few weeks, and you could begin to start looking…"

"I told you I wasn't interested," Harry replied harshly, rubbing out his cigarette on the arm of his chair uncaringly. Ginny nodded tightly, her lips pursed.

"All the same, I went to a lot of trouble to get the papers, so I'm going to leave them with you and you can do whatever you want with them."

Harry didn't reply. The silence stretched. The water began to boil, and Ginny added the seasoned vegetables. She put the chicken in the one pan that Harry owned and began to fry it.

"Why don't you go ahead and put the movie in. Oh, and for Merlin's sake, Harry, put a shirt on. How's a girl supposed to watch a movie with a distraction like that?" Her tone was teasing, and Harry acknowledged her flattery with a small smile. Had the comment come from anyone else, Harry would have flown into a rage. He didn't like anyone looking at the ghastly scars on his chest and shoulders, compliments of Voldemort.

Still, he had a nicely built torso, mainly because he spent a lot of his time lifting weights and watching day time television. He knew Ginny was talking about his muscle rather than his scars.

Idly, he scooped a stained and slightly smelly shirt off the floor and pulled it over his head uncaringly. Ginny grimaced and wrinkled her nose up, but otherwise didn't comment. She began to dish out their soup and pour them some drinks as Harry fiddled with the old tape player hooked up to his small television.

"Is that bulb out, or is it just turned off?" Ginny asked, noticing for the first time that the apartment was even darker than usual.

"Out," Harry replied shortly, something dark coloring his voice. He knew he had to let Ginny change it – he certainly couldn't reach it himself. The witch waved her wand at it, and it lit up like a solar flare. Harry scowled and flinched from the light like a vampire would have done. When Harry could see properly again, he shot a glare at Ginny who shrugged sheepishly. Another wave of her wand and the blinding light reduced to a more bearable glow.

"I'm not very good at bewitching muggle things. Didn't get Dad's talent for it, I suppose," she mused while Harry rewound the tape. An advertisement for oven cleaner drifted gratingly out of the radio, and Harry forcefully yanked the plug out of the wall. He hated that stupid radio. Merlin only knew why he hadn't destroyed it yet. Perhaps because it had been a gift from Ginny for his last birthday.

Ginny piled the crispy chicken up on a plate and brought their meal into the living room. She knew fried chicken was Harry's favorite.

Harry debated inwardly over whether the tempting chicken was worth putting his cigarette down for. He knew Ginny was just as good a cook as her mother, and it had been a long time since he'd had good fried chicken.

Resignedly, he snubbed out his second cigarette and reached for the chicken. Ginny smiled discreetly behind her bowl of soup, then pressed play on the remote. When she was dealing with Harry, she knew that any victory was something to be proud of, no matter how small. Just getting him to eat was nearly impossible. Getting him to put down a cigarette to do the aforementioned eating was a rare event indeed.

Harry watched the movie for only a few moments before his attention drifted, as it usually did, to the past.

"Do you think he will recover, Albus?"

"Time heals all wounds, so they say." Dumbledore replied blandly. Harry could picture the elderly wizard stroking his beard in contemplation. He could feel the weight of his professors' gazes on him. He knew he should open his eyes, but for the first time he asked himself…

What was the point?

"Harry has defeated Voldemort, but at a terrible price. He has lost too much for someone so young. I fear his suffering is largely my fault. I have asked so much of him though…I have no right to ask his forgiveness," Dumbledore concluded sadly.

Harry came back to himself when Ginny made an asinine comment about the movie. A scowl twisted Harry's lips, and as was his habit, he twisted a lock of his hair around his fingers and tugged at it mercilessly. Ginny noticed and silently passed him his carton of cigarettes. He took it with a trembling hand, and for the rest of the movie he stared fixedly at the covered window, until the cigarette was a glowing dot flush against his chapped lips.

When Ginny left, she didn't waste her breath to say goodbye. Harry was obviously in one of his moods, and there was no talking to him when he was like that. A bit angry for no reason in particular (perhaps Harry's mood was catching), Ginny left the thick folder on the stained coffee table before gathering her things and leaving the foul smelling apartment. She stood for awhile with her back to Harry's closed front door, her eyes screwed shut tightly. Something had to change. He simply couldn't go on like he was forever.

A/N: I don't really know what to say about this one. It's just something I'm toying around with when I don't want to work on Colt. Updates will be erratic at best, as I don't have any other chapters written in advance, and I don't have a clear outline for a plot. I have a vague idea of where it's going, but nothing concrete.