A/N - Just a short story I wrote for a SIYE Challenge. While I'm waiting on the editing of the next chapter, I thought I would start throwing it up for readers to enjoy. Thanks to Rinfea and Xavras for helping edit the story.

Disclaimer - The characters you recognize belong to JK Rowling and her wonderful world of Harry Potter. I'm just taking her toys and playing with them.

Prologue

Ginny Weasley was tired. She was tired of being sad. Tired of being alone. Tired of hurting. Tired of the endless nightmares. And most of all, she was tired of waiting on Harry Potter. As she strode through the corridors of the Ministry for Magic, she rehearsed what she was going to say to the Minister, and what she was going to say to her ex-boyfriend, whom she mentally referred to as The Git.

It had been over four months since the Battle at Hogwarts, and she had barely seen Harry. He had been present for the funerals, but then he had thanked her parents for their kindness and withdrawn to his own home. The problem was, Ginny did not know where that home was. Harry hadn't bothered to tell her. Perhaps he had told his best friends, her brother Ron and his girlfriend Hermione; however, they were presently in Australia attempting to locate Hermione's parents, and Ginny had no way of contacting them. Hence, her visit to the Minister, Kingsley Shacklebolt.

xxxx

Kingsley Shacklebolt, the newly elected Minister for Magic, sat at his desk and sighed. The surface of his desk was covered with parchment, seemingly in a great state of disarray. He took a sip of his tea and grimaced. It was tepid. He gazed at the chaos on his desk and wondered if he had lost his wits. What had he been thinking when he agreed to take on this position? How could anyone in their right mind actively seek this job? A sharp rap on the door to his office interrupted his introspection.

"Minister Shacklebolt, sir," came the quiet voice of his secretary. "There's a Miss Weasley to see you, sir."

Kingsley looked up in interest. Maybe this was the answer to his problem. He sat back as the fiery redhead strode into the room, crackling with repressed energy.

"Ginny, it's a pleasure to see you. What brings you to my office? I haven't seen you since, well, since Fred's funeral," he finished on a sombre note.

Ginny reined in her emotions. She was not going to cry. She was done with crying. Screwing her eyes shut, she slowly counted to ten, then opened her eyes once again. "I need your help, Minister."

"Ginny, we know each other well enough. There is no need to be so formal."

"Kingsley," began Ginny anew. "I need to contact Harry, do you know where he is? It's of utmost importance."

Kingsley shifted in his seat. He did indeed know where Harry was living, but the young man had sworn him to secrecy. Harry had told him he didn't want to be disturbed by anyone, including himself.

"Well, Ginny," Kingsley prevaricated. "I'm not at liberty to share that information."

The next minute he found himself facing the business end of the wand of a very irate witch. "I don't care what Harry told you. I don't care if he made you swear an Unbreakable Vow – he didn't, did he?" She waited for him to shake his head before continuing. "I need to find him. He's had four months to pull himself together. He can't hide out forever. You do not want me to hex you."

Kingsley shuddered. He'd seen the effects of Ginny's famous Bat-Bogey Hex, and he inwardly agreed that that was something he had no interest in experiencing.

"Now," Ginny continued. "We can do this the easy way, you simply tell me where I can find that louse, or we can do it the hard way, I hex you, and then you tell me where I can find him."

"Miss Weasley, Ginny," protested Kingsley. "I can have you arrested. Threatening the Minister for Magic is punishable by a stay in Azkaban."

"Kingsley, you and I both know you have more important things to deal with than a measly threat. Now, I repeat. Where. Is. Harry?" She took a step closer to him, a determined look on her face.

Kingsley was a hardened Auror, but he knew how fiercely determined Weasley women could be, and inwardly begging Harry to forgive him, he shared with her Harry's address.

Ginny thanked him curtly and started towards the door, when she was halted by the Minister's voice.

"In return, Ginny, you can do me a favour. I need to speak with Harry. An important issue has come up, and I need his advice."

Ginny turned and regarded him skeptically.

xxxx

Harry was sitting in a comfortable chair in his lounge, the telly blaring. His eyes were open, but they saw nothing. His face was covered with a ratty beard, and his hair hung greasily down to his shoulders. His clothes were covered with food stains, and he was surrounded by a pile of dirty dishes.

He couldn't focus, he couldn't think, he couldn't even bring himself to care that he couldn't do anything. His nights were broken by vivid images of dead bodies and screams. His mind was filled with death and destruction.

A faint pop outside his flat, registered somewhere in the back of his mind, but he was too far gone to actually react. A loud pounding on his door caused him to languidly turn his head in the general direction of the noise, but he didn't get up.

The pounding sound became louder and louder. Finally, expletives could be heard, and then, "Alohomora!"

Harry was not really surprised to see the door open. He wasn't even surprised to see the wand-wielding, red-headed termagant enter the room, eyes blazing. Being surprised required effort, and he couldn't spare any. He simply regarded her with empty eyes, saying nothing. Somewhere, in a distant part of his mind, he wondered why she was there. Didn't she know not to waste her time with him? Everyone was better off without him – a harbinger of death and destruction.

"HARRY JAMES POTTER!" screeched Ginny, upon espying him sprawled in the chair. Her voice quieted, and she approached him slowly, eyes darting around the room, taking in the disreputable state of the room. "Harry," she gently reached out and touched his arm, desperately seeking some flicker of life in his eyes. "Oh, Harry, what have you done?"

Letting go of his arm, she turned her attention to his flat. With a few flicks of her wand, the dirty dishes were in the kitchen sink being scrubbed in hot soapy water. The rubbish flew into the bin, while a broom was sent sweeping the dirt from the flooring. She moved to the windows and opened them wide, letting in some much needed fresh air.

Satisfied with her progress, she moved down the hall, opening doors until she found his bedroom. Another flick of her wand had the clothes flying towards an overflowing basket of dirty laundry. She found some clean sheets in the cupboard near the loo, and soon the bed was neatly made with fresh linens.

The loo was her final destination. She only glanced at the Muggle washing machine in passing, before shrugging her shoulders. It wasn't magical, and she would need instruction before daring to operate it, for fearing of flooding the flat. A few more spells and the loo was sparkling clean, and the trash bin full to overflowing.

Now that order had been restored, she returned to the lounge, to find that Harry hadn't moved. She spied a long black object in one of his hands and gently pried it loose. Fortunately for her, there as a button clearly labelled as off. She pressed it and was rewarded with blessed silence.

Kneeling down in front of Harry, she started to reach her hand out to touch him, then drew it back. She stood up abruptly, grabbed him by the hand and led him down the hall. She divested him of his shirt, then pushed him into the shower, still half dressed and turned the water on.

Moments later, Harry was startled when he was hit by a stream of warm water. Shaking the water out of his eyes, he gazed blearily around him. What was he doing in the shower with his trousers still on? He started muttering curses and tried to exit the shower stall, only to find himself pushed back in.

"What the bloody hell?" he shouted angrily. "I'm half-dressed! Let me out! My clothes are getting soaked."

A feminine voice answered him, and he groggily tried to place it. He knew it sounded awfully familiar, and he felt he ought to recognize the person behind the voice, but his mind kept sticking, and he couldn't seem to get it to work properly. He concentrated on the words and desperately tried to make some sense of them.

"Take your trousers and pants off and toss them out. I'll take care of them. Here's a flannel," and an arm appeared bearing a flannel, much to his surprise. "Wash yourself with soap and don't forget to shampoo your hair. Then rinse it. When you've finished cleaning yourself, turn the water off and come out. There's a set of fresh clothes on the hand basin. I'll wait for you out in the lounge. And don't forget to brush your teeth."

Harry had managed to catch the first part of the speech. Slowly he unbuckled his belt and unbuttoned his trousers. With great effort, he managed to pull them off, and then his pants. Clothes in hand he stood under the water and tried to think of what he was supposed to do now. Fortunately for him, the voice returned.

"Have you got your trousers and your pants off yet? You do, good. Pass them out to me, please."

Harry stuck his hand out and felt someone relieve him of his burden. Now what?, he wondered.

As if in answer to his unspoken question, or perhaps he did speak and simply didn't realise it, he heard the voice instruct him once again. "Take the flannel and cover it with soap. Don't forget to clean behind your ears. The shampoo is in on the shelf behind you. Pour a bit into your hand and lather it up and clean your hair."

Harry turned around, and his surprise, there was a bottle labelled shampoo on the shelf. At least he thought it was labelled shampoo, his eyes were having trouble focusing, so he would have to take her word. He turned around again and faced the spray, just in time to hear her say, "When you've finished, put on the clean clothes I've laid out for you. I'll be in the lounge."

Then there was the sound of a door shutting, and Harry was left to contemplate the cascading water in solitude.

Quite a bit later, Harry trudged into the lounge and found a familiar red-head perched on his couch. He stopped abruptly and simply stared. His mind was unable to process what his eyes were seeing. No one knew where lived. Especially not Ginny. How was it that she was sitting on his couch? He couldn't recall letting her in.

He thought some more. Was she the owner of the voice in the loo? A red flush crept up his neck. He certainly hoped not. That would be dreadfully embarrassing. He really wanted to know, but he didn't quite know how to ask, and then he thought that perhaps he'd much rather not know the answer to that particular question. Unfortunately for him, the answer was soon coming.

"Merlin, Harry. You look and smell so much better. I hope you hung your flannel and your towel up. Sorry about the clothes, but they were the only ones I could find that were still clean. It looks like I'll have to take you shopping. Before we go, you'll have to explain to me how to run the washer. I've never used a Muggle one before. That way at least some of your clothes will be clean by the time we return."

Harry turned a dull red. It was humiliating to think she had been the one to toss him in the shower.

Ginny regarded him in amusement, and a flicker of hope rose in her heart. At least he cared enough to feel a sense of embarrassment. Perhaps there was still enough time to pull him back from the edge of the abyss upon which he seemed so precariously perched.

"Ggginny," he began tentatively, his voice scratchy with disuse. "What are you doing here? How did you get in? I thought no one knew where I lived, except...for Kingsley...," his voice trailed off, a faint frown marring his features.

"Never mind about that," replied Ginny with forced cheerfulness. "I'm hungry. I've checked your cupboards and your refrigerator, and they seem to be empty. It's probably best that we find some place to eat, and then we can go shopping." She grabbed his hand and pulled him towards the door.

To his amazement, Harry found himself walking down the street, hand in hand with Ginny, and listening to her seemingly endless chatter. She seemed to be catching him up with all the news, but he only heard about one word in four.

Before long they were standing in front of a shop bearing the words, Mario's Pizzeria. Tuning Ginny back in, he heard her say, "Oh, look! Do they sell pizza? I remember you and Hermione talking about good it tastes. I'd love to try some? Do you have any Muggle money? Can we go in?"

With a great deal of concentration, he managed to make enough sense of her words to understand that she wanted him to buy her some pizza. He reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet, and noted that he was in possession of quite a few pounds, more than enough to pay for supper. Shoving his wallet back into his pocket, he opened the door on his third attempt and ushered her into the cool interior.

Several hours later, Ginny left him alone in his flat. He stood there in bemusement, surrounded by shopping bags containing a variety of clothes and foodstuffs. He wasn't quite certain what had happened, but thought that perhaps he didn't much mind.