A/N: This takes place about six years after Harry defeats Voldemort in St. Mungo's. This is from Hermione's POV, but it's not a H/Hr fic.
"Mr. and Mrs. Weasley? He's ready."
"Okay, thank you."
Ron and Hermione Weasley followed the trim Healer down the portrait-lined corridor to a small cubicle on the Fifth Floor: Spell Damage, although Harry actually didn't belong there. They didn't have a ward for his specific condition.
Before she opened the door, the Healer turned around and whispered, "He's been doing much better today." She smiled reassuringly and pushed the door open. "Mr. Potter? Ron and Hermione are here to see you. And I think they've brought you gifts." She went in and sat down in her normal wobbly plastic chair.
Ron and Hermione plastered determined grins on their faces as they stood in the doorway. "Hey, mate," Ron said, stepping forward, "I brought you that new book, Great Seekers of the Twentieth Century, and a few Quidditch magazines, one's got an interview with Oliver Wood. Remember him?" He slid them onto the table.
A pasty white hand pulled them across the table. "Thanks," Harry muttered hoarsely, nodding in answer to Ron's question, his eyes flickering over the covers.
"And I've brought you some Fizzing Whizbees," Hermione added brightly, placing them on the table next to the book and sitting in the familiar wooden chair next to Ron. Harry held the bag of candy tightly for a moment before setting them down again.
As Ron began talking about what was going on this Quidditch season, Hermione watched Harry. He was wearing the usual light blue robes that St. Mungo's gave their permanent residents, and he was looking down at his hands, which were resting on the table. He was terribly pale- he hadn't been outside in six years now- and it looked like a haircut was due. A closer look told her that they hadn't used a Shaving Charm on him this morning, he was looking rather scruffy. She watched as his lips twitched faintly and his eyes flickered up at Ron and back down again quick as lightning. But in that mere second, Hermione saw the intense sadness, grieving, bitterness, and anger that those vivid green eyes still contained.
However, he really did seem to be having a relatively good day; during most visits he mainly stared at his lap, avoiding all eye contact. It was as if he knew that his shadowed gaze would be too much for anyone to handle, to know that someone had seen and lost so much. And he definitely had: his parents, his very childhood; Sirius, Dumbledore, Hagrid, Cedric, Tonks, Lupin, the Dursleys- despite their horrible attitude towards him, Hermione knew that another piece of Harry had died with them, just like with everyone else- Luna, the majority of their friends and peers from school and the DA, as well as the Order, and even the majority of the one family that had ever shown him love in return: Ron, Bill, and Fred and George were the only Weasleys left. All of their deaths had hit him really hard, but Ginny's was the worst. It was if he knew that even if he did survive the war, there would be no possibility of his being able to have even a wisp of what he had always longed for, a loving family of his own. When you looked into his eyes now, sometimes you felt like you were looking at a dead person, other times like a terribly bitter and hardened Dumbledore.
Harry hadn't attended her and Ron's wedding, and while he knew they were married and had a son, they were cautious about what they told him. The only really safe topics were Quidditch and their jobs; Ron was a scout for the Chudley Cannons, and Hermione was working her way up through the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, trying to ease the Ministry's tight hold on the creatures and give them more rights, but her main focus was House Elves, reminiscent of her S.P.E.W. efforts. She could not, however, tell Harry about how she often spent more time researching severe cases of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the intense depression and other mental problems that stemmed from it in the hope that one day she would find anything to help Harry.
When Harry had regained consciousness after the final battle in Little Hangleton, he had been dazed and listless. Any mention of the past had made him extremely violent, and he became suicidal. Hermione didn't know how many times she had found him on the floor, covered in blood, a mixture of deep fingernail scratches and/or slashes from anything else he could find that was remotely sharp. She knew that even now he was shackled to the floor by his ankles, just in case.
"... and since England beat China the other day, we're most likely on our way to the Cup." Ron finished.
Harry nodded, still looking at his hands. The scars were fading nicely.
"Well, Harry, we'd better go for now," Hermione said, standing up and looking at her watch. They couldn't tell him that they had to pick up their 14-month-old son, Harry Arthur, from her mother. That would remind him of what he couldn't have.
Ron rose to his feet too, nodding.
Hermione hesitated. "Healer Bell, could I give Harry a hug?" she whispered.
The Healer considered it, then nodded. Hermione walked around the table and bent down toward Harry. He finally turned, and looked at her. The raw pain there took her breath away, just as it always had. But she could see the faintest glimmer of something- gratitude? happiness? love?- deep in those emerald depths. She tentatively touched his shoulder, and the next thing she knew, he was gripping her in tight embrace. She reciprocated just as fiercely. As they pulled apart, Hermione struggled against tears. She put a hand to his face, and glanced questioningly towards the Healer, who nodded at her unspoken query. With a light tap of her wand to Harry's face, Hermione gave him a clean shave.
After Ron patted Harry on the shoulder, him and Hermione followed Healer Bell into the hallway. Just before the door closed behind her, Hermione called, "Happy birthday, Harry!" She saw his lips twitch upward just as the door clicked shut.
"I'm glad he's doing better," Ron murmured, apparently rather close to tears as well, though obviously trying to hide it.
Healer Bell nodded. "Yes, he's been doing great today, and last night he didn't have any nightmares, which is a real plus." Both Ron and Hermione broke into genuinely happy smiles.
"Thanks, Katie," Hermione said, hugging their longtime friend.
"Yeah, I think you really help Harry, having known him and all, and it sure does ease my mind," Ron added, hugging Katie as well.
Katie smiled. "I just hope that one day a day like today will be a bad day... I'll see you next week."
Holding hands, Ron and Hermione made their way through the twisting hallways. Hermione sighed.
"What?" Ron asked, squeezing her hand.
"I was just thinking that no matter how happy I am with you and little Harry, I'll never be completely happy unless Harry Potter comes back to us."
Ron nodded silently in agreement. There was no point in wishing there had never been a Dark Lord, or a prophecy, or Horcruxes, or so many awful deaths. But they could continue to hope that one day their friend would come back and fill the void he had vacated.