Disclaimer: If I win multiple lotteries, I may buy the rights to 'Harry Potter,' Until then, I own nothing but the plot.
A/N: There's a second half to this story once it makes it out of beta. Leave a review and let's see if you can guess where this is going!
1. The Dream, The Obsession
Harry awoke badly shaken and breathing heavily. His white tee shirt clung uncomfortably to his flesh, dampened by the cold sweat that was produced by the dream he had just broke free from. He sat up and brushed his sodden bangs out of his eyes, then rested his dripping forehead in the palms of his hands. He tried to swallow down the large, pulsating lump that had lodged in his throat. He sat on his bed for a few minutes, fighting to get his emotions under control, but he knew it was a losing battle. He didn't even know why he was fighting it anymore.
It was that dream again. It was coming more and more frequently over the last ten months. The ten months since he'd last visited her. He knew why he didn't want to see her again so soon. He had spent so much time with her in the beginning. At first, he would see her every day, sometimes twice a day. As the months passed, he'd see her less frequently, realizing that sooner or later, he'd never see her again. He knew it wouldn't last forever, but in the beginning, he couldn't help himself. He couldn't bear to live the rest of his life never seeing her again, but he knew there would come a day where she just wouldn't be there anymore…
And that knowledge scared him more than anything.
He knew the next time he saw her would be the last. Over the past four months, he repeatedly found himself in front of the door with his hand on the knob, only to turn around and ride back home, or to the nearest pub. Most times, he chose the pub, trying to drown out the desire that he constantly felt. To numb the longing that was burning within him. He just couldn't work up the nerve to tell her 'good bye.'
But this was the morning. He knew he would do it this day. Maybe once he said 'good bye,' the dreams would finally stop. Maybe. Somewhere deep in the back of his mind, he knew that the dreams would probably never stop, but he had to hold onto hope, didn't he?
He rose from the bed and entered his bathroom for a nice long shower, the hot spray melted away the tension and sweat. He quickly dried himself before picking out a smart muggle outfit, a form-fitting forest green silk shirt and a pair of black slacks. He didn't even bother with his hair, he abandoned all hope long ago of trying to tame that unruly mop.
He walked to his closet and withdrew a sealed wooden box that he had hidden in back on an overhead shelf. With a tap from his wand and a hastily murmured incantation, the lock sprung with an audible click and the top cracked open. He closed his eyes and slowly lifted the lid. There it was. The envelope, plain white, sealed with no writing on it, but he knew what it contained. He picked up the envelope with a shaking hand and held it to his chest. He stood there for a long while, just clutching the envelope to his shirt while breathing heavily, trying to swallow down that persistent, nagging lump that apparently enjoyed the time it was spending in his throat. A single tear snaked its way down his face as he remembered a time, years ago, that the wooden box was filled with envelopes just like the one he was clinging to.
Had he really used that many over the years? He knew the answer to that question well enough. He remembered the first time. He was shocked when he heard about it from none other than Neville Longbottom, about the girl from Hogwarts who started her own business catering to lonely men. Neville certainly fit into that category, he never seemed to have much luck with the witches.
It was different for Harry. He wasn't lonely per se… after all, with his fame, money and looks, he could have practically any single witch he desired, and even quite a few not-so-single witches, if he were a less-than-honorable sort of fellow. He never knew why he went the first time, he just found himself there one day, more out of curiosity than anything. He soon found that it was a way to ease the pain… a way to cope… It was like a drug that made him forget about his life for a while. He couldn't really say exactly when it turned into an obsession… an addiction… It was very expensive, but money was one thing he really didn't have to worry about. Sure, he had money, more than he could ever spend in his lifetime, but what's the point of having money and possessions with nobody to share it with? Or more specifically, nobody he wanted to share it with.
He looked back down to the envelope in his hand. 'What was I thinking? Why did I start this madness?'
With a heavy sigh, he picked up his black leather jacket, grabbed the key to his motorcycle, the same motorcycle that, at one time, had been owned by his godfather, Sirius Black. He stopped and stared at the key in his hand.
A small smile appeared on his face as he recalled the large black dog bounding along the platform at King's Cross Station. He remembered the night he freed Sirius with help from Hermione. He remembered the flight on the back of the hippogriff, Buckbeak. He remembered the warmth of her body as she clung tightly to him, her arms desperately wrapped around his waist, and her breath on the back of his neck that sent shivers throughout his body. He never admitted to anyone the effect she had on him that night. He was too young at the time to realize what he was feeling, and wasn't until years later that he discovered exactly what that feeling was.
His smile disappeared as the train of thought continued on to its inevitable conclusion: Death. Sirius falling through the veil. The violent deaths of his parents. The senseless death of Cedric. The tragic deaths of Dumbledore, Amelia Bones, Mad eye, Tonks, Charlie and Ginny Weasley… and…
Well, the list goes on… and on… The war was won by the Light, but at a terrible price. In Harry's opinion, the cost was much too high.
Harry sighed once again. He reached his arm out and Hedwig gracefully floated to him and obediently stuck out her leg. Harry carefully attached the envelope while walking to the front door, saying, "You know where to bring this, girl."
He had just reached for the doorknob when the crack of apparition sounded just outside in the yard. He opened the door and saw Ron and Luna Weasley walking up the dirt path towards his cottage, holding each other's hand and smiling broadly at him.
"Hi, you guys." Greeted Harry, trying to sound as cheerful as he could.
"Hello Harry, It is good to see you again." Said Luna, still with her dreamy, detached voice.
"We were just heading to that new pub that just opened in Diagon Alley and we thought you'd like to…" Ron frowned when he noticed the envelope secured to Hedwig's leg. "Mate, you're not going there again, are you? It's been over six years, you've got to let her go! You know you're only hurting yourself."
"I'm not hurting anyone, Ron, I'm just…"
"You're barking mad, mate, that's what you are…," snapped Ron, "What do you think she'd say about what you're doing? Do you honestly think she'd be happy about it?"
Earlier, Harry thought that lump in his throat could not get any larger or more annoying. He was proven wrong, as he was now finding it nearly impossible to breathe.
"Just sod off." Said Harry, as he brushed past the couple and launched Hedwig from his arm. Without a backwards glance, he clambered onto the large motorbike, kicked it into life and let a rooster-tail fly as he powered down the dirt path to the main road.
Ron looked on sadly, as his best friend tore down the road. Once Harry was out of sight and the rumble of the engine faded into the distance, he turned to Luna, and with a worried glance said, "He's driving himself mental. Why does he do it?"
Luna's unfocused eyes turned to Ron, as if staring right through him. "Harry will be all right." She said distantly, "I think he's on his way to find something he didn't know he was looking for."
Ron gave his wife a small, puzzled smile, not really understanding what she was trying to say, but then he rarely understood whenever she came out with those cryptic anecdotes. He did know that she always seemed to understand certain truths somehow, and had no qualms about vocalizing them. If she said Harry was going to be okay, then he was going to be okay. He shook his head and took Luna's hand, "Let's check out that pub, shall we?" A moment later, they were gone.