Author's Note: For all those who return and cannot leave the war behind. May you find the healing you need, as well as the honor you deserve. And to my husband, the most courageous man I know.
It was done. They were alone at last. The room had but one window, and he very carefully warded it until you could see though the wall more easily than through the window. And then he warded the door. His mutter under his breath was soft, but she heard it anyway.
She crossed to him and hugged him, just enjoying the feeling of his body against hers. She'd had quite enough of decorous handholding during their courtship. The chaste kiss exchanged at the end of the ceremony had merely lit a fire in her. She wanted to touch him.
He put his arms around her, and lowered his face into her hair. After a moment, she realized he was crying.
"Are you all right?" she asked, looking up at him.
"I never thought...I never thought I'd make it this far," he said. She nodded. There had been Voldemort, always Voldemort, lurking on the edges of their lives, and the last fighting, and then the fame, even worse than before.
She took a step back from him. "What we are...us....it's not for them," she said, making a gesture toward the walls. "They can watch and try to guess. But I won't say a thing, I'll keep a pretty facade and hide all that we are. You are mine. Not theirs." And she gestured with her wand, letting her robe fall open, seeing his eyes go wide with wonder. She remembered a skinny child looking at the Weasley family table piled with food and realizing that he can have this. All of this. It's all right. The child looked out of the eyes of her new husband, afraid to reach for any part of the feast before him.
In the end, she put her hands over his, and drew him to her.
* * *
"Are you all right?" she said, cursing herself for the inanity of the comment. He flashed a look of contemptuous amazement at her, and strode out of the room. She could hear him retching up the prime rib they'd eaten at the Ministry dinner earlier, and knew the door was locked between them.
So she made herself a drink and sat down on the couch, staring at a magazine article without reading it. At length, the door opened, and she heard him going down the hall to the bedroom. When exhaustion finally drove her to bed, she tried to lie down softly, but there was no such thing. No one could move in a room where he slept without waking him.
He sprang up, wand in hand. "Shh, it's just me," she said, and the lines between his brows eased only slightly. He lay back down, and she did, but the tension in his body was too great for someone sleeping. At length, she felt him get up, and she took the sorrow with her down into her dreams.
* * *
She woke up when he moved. His eyes were shut, brow slightly furrowed in a bad dream. She shook his shoulder lightly, and he jumped, hand on his wand, then relaxing as he realized where he was. He took a deep breath and turned to her.
"Thanks," he said, and then looked down over her body. She hadn't bothered to get out of bed and put a nightgown on earlier, and despite the fact that his glasses lay on the nightstand, he'd picked up on this. One hand slid down her body and she felt herself wake up to desire. She slid close and kissed him, and he chuckled under his breath.
She laughed in return. I'm going to be asleep at my desk tomorrow, she thought. But she didn't care. One flesh, one person....how sweet was marriage.
* * *
She got out of bed, stretched, and swore to herself. She knew that sensation. Yes. Glanced in the mirror. Already beginning to colour up nicely, and right where she couldn't reach it to heal it herself, not properly. And she couldn't ask Harry to fix it. He'd done it. Oh, not deliberately. But sometimes he dreamed, reached, struggled, and hit, and when she was there...sometimes his blows at the dead connected with her body. She chose her robe carefully, charmed it to stay in place over the area, took a potion to kill the soreness so she moved normally. She'd have to dress in the bathroom for the next couple of days.
* * *
"...Harry! I have to finish getting dressed! I have to be at work in...."
Her protest is threaded with laughter, and ends on a little hitch and moan that has everything to do with him behind her, and his clever hands cupping her breasts through her bra. She leans her head back against his chest and drinks his kiss hungrily. He is warm from sleep against her back, and eager. Mmm. She would like to crawl into his skin and not leave. She writhes a bit for room, then turns in his kiss and bites his chin, loving the way his eyes go dark and feral.
"Oh, you asked for it now," he says, and knocks her gently backwards onto the bed, and his skin never leaves hers. She is indeed late to work, flushed and giddy.
* * *
He is reading, staring at a magazine, and not turning pages, while she gets her morning coffee. The circles under his eyes are darker today. In the T-shirt, it's possible to see the curse scars on his arms, where the shielding hadn't quite held. Normally he wears long sleeves so people don't stare. When he goes out at all, that is. She wonders about hugging him, and moves toward him, then stops. No. It hurts more to hug someone who will not hug back. She has to take a deep breath to keep from crying before she can Apparate to work.
"I'll take my lunch now, if that's all right, Mrs. Potter," says her secretary, a middle-aged witch who is competent and discreet. But not discreet enough to ask her to charm the bruise away. The potion is fading. She needs to take another dose. Going home to get it, she sees that Harry has fallen asleep on the couch. After these sleepless nights, he does not even wake when she enters the room. He is thin, too thin. The dead are winning. She is losing. And for the first time she considers her position. Is there a time to retreat with honour and life intact? And is she there?
He shifts in his sleep, and she fetches her potion and leaves. There is always work. She doesn't want to think right now.
* * *
She finds, with some annoyance, that she left that file at home in the study. "Take your lunch," she says to her secretary. "I have to pop home and get a file anyway."
Harry is asleep on the couch, but the pop of her arrival awakens him. "Hey," he says, looking her over with a slow gaze, hair even more mussed than usual, and smiling a slow smile that makes her simmer inside. "Hey yourself," she says. She looks him over, and smiles. "Good dream?"
He smiles, blushing a little. "Can't compete with the reality of you," he says, and the feeling of his back under her hands turns the heat up more, and she impatiently spells her suit to a chair and takes advantage of the situation. She is late getting back with the file, and her secretary just smiles.
* * *
When she comes home, Seamus is there, and Dean, and they are all drinking. She takes her work down to the study with a transparent excuse. They don't want her there. She is hoping that maybe tonight he will talk to them about it all, about the war. Sometimes, then, he is the man she married. She is hoping that tonight he passes out before any of them can let out any of the poison of memories. These are the nights he sleeps only to dream of green flashes and dying friends. Those are the nights he wakes screaming. She wonders about conjuring a bed in the study for herself. She would sleep better. But it would be an admission that it was too broken for mending. She does not give up so easily.
* * *
"I'm sorry," Harry says, and swings his long legs out of bed.
"Where are you going?" she asks. He woke her up calling her brother's name, sobbing, and there are still tear marks on his cheeks.
"I'd best sleep on the couch if I'm going to do this," he says, and won't meet her eyes.
"No," she says, catching his wrist. He looks down at her hand holding him there. "I'm not afraid of your dreams," she says, "and I want you beside me."
He looks stunned. Was he always so ignored, she wonders, and knows it to be true. "Come back to bed," she says, and slides back over into her own place as he slips in beside her. He cradles her in his arms, and they drift off to sleep that way. He does not dream again that night.
* * *
Harry is not home when she comes home. She waits, starts dinner for two, begins to worry, when he Apparates into their living room with a faint pop and a glamour over his face. Now she worries because he is staggering with exhaustion or intoxication, and she does not know why. She is afraid to ask.
"Is that dinner?" he says, and she nods.
"I'll get you some if you sit down," she says, and her shoulders hunch in defence.
But he does not shout or wound with cutting barbs. "Yes...." he says, dropping down on the couch, and going boneless into its support. "I've got a lot to say...but I'm too tired right now to do much."
"What happened?" she asks.
"Dean's at St. Mungo's," he says, tiredly, too tiredly to dress it up. "He attacked someone walking behind him in Diagon Alley. They think the guy's going to survive, but it was touch and go for a little while."
"Oh, dear God, why?"
"Dean...went nuts, thought he was a Death Eater coming up on him," Harry says. "He's himself, now, far as we can tell...it's just that he can't be let out. "
"Are you okay?" she asks. He shoots her a look of anger.
"I'm perfectly fine," he says, eyes tense, fists clenched, and she knows not to say any more.
And so she feeds him, and stands between him and the world when the press begins clamoring for his own opinion on Dean Thomas's actions, on the actions of someone who was there for the last battle, the actions of his close friend. And she watches from across the room, as he drinks, and stares into the fire. When he begins crying silently she retreats to bed, and leaves him alone to find his way. She has offered, he has rejected. She will leave him alone. But she is used, now, to sleeping alone. She begins to think it would hurt less if it were a bed all her own.
She stares into the darkness of her bedroom, and feels tears prickling her eyes. She has loved him so long...still loves him...how do you say that it's over? The thought hurts, hurts like pulling her heart from her chest. And the bruise twinges, and she lays a hand on her belly, thinks of her mother's hints about grandchildren, and tries to add up intangibles and possibilities, and does not know which answer she seeks.
A sound disturbs her. It is Harry, standing in the doorway. He says her name, uncertainly.
"What?" she says, watching as he makes his way across the room.
He sinks down on the bed, and puts his head in his hands. "It's not all right," he says.
She is numb. His voice, harsh with tears, continues.
"I've pretended there's nothing wrong, but it's all been wrong....except you. You're the only right thing for so long... " And he is crying, and she finds her own cheeks are wet as she hugs him, and for the first time in a long time, he hugs her back. Now she is crying too.
And now, he speaks. Of the war that is gone and not gone, the pain and the horror and the marks on his soul, and the ghosts of combat nerves that keep him strung taut and sleepless, and of the card in his wallet, of someone at St. Mungo's who says he can help if...if Harry has the courage to try. The well of courage has run dry.
"No it hasn't," she says. "You came to me. You talked to me. We'll meet it together."
"Together," he says, eyes heavy. "Nice word, that...."
She soothes him to sleep like a child, and goes to clean up the kitchen after he has fallen asleep, holding her hand. It is evening, but the clouds have finally cleared. Out the window, she can see the stars.