With Ginny missing and George gone to find her, all the festivity seemed to have leached out of the occupants of The Burrow. Ron had been declared the winner of the chess match by default; he was clearly still the best player participating, but this year he silently accepted the other men’s congratulations and didn’t gloat until Hermione scolded him, as was tradition. Instead, he’d tried to engage Harry in conversation, but Harry wasn’t having any of it. He wanted to be alone, so he wheeled himself into the scullery.
After a while, though, the smells of detergent, dirty socks and wet wood began making his nose itch, and Harry feared he would begin sneezing. He fingered the wand he’d taken to putting in his trousers pocket after the debacle over the front steps of Snidget’s Haven. The wood warmed as his hand closed around the handle and before he could stop himself, he’d cast an unfastening charm on the seatbelt of his chair and twisted his upper body as if to Apparate. Nothing happened the first two times he tried, but his desire to be anywhere but the scullery was so strong that he finally closed his eyes and concentrated on the bed in Ginny’s old bedroom. He twisted a third time and successfully left his chair behind as he Apparated with a pop that was much louder than his usual exit or entrance to a new location.
A feminine squeal told him he had arrived in the right place much quicker than did the comprehension of finding himself sitting on a pile of Lily’s clothes, which she’d spread out on the bed.
“Daddy, you’re squashing my pink blouse!” Lily wailed as Harry raised himself up enough for her to pull the bit of pink material out from under him.
“Sorry, Sweet Pea, I’m a little clumsy,” Harry said, yawning suddenly.
“That’s all right, Dad. You’re forgiven,” Lily said, smiling at him. Then she asked, “I’m still your Sweat Pea?”
Harry nodded. She seemed happy enough until she asked, “Has Mum come home yet?”
Harry shook his head. “No, Lily, Uncle George hasn’t convinced her to come home,” he admitted glumly. “She’s still missing.”
Lily haphazardly pushed the rest of her clothes into her overnight bag and sat next to him, throwing her arms around his waist. “I hope she’ll come home soon. I miss her,” she said.
“I miss her, too, Lily.”
“Maybe if we wish really, really hard she’ll come back soon?”
Harry hugged his daughter. “We can try, Sweet Pea, but I think your mum will come home only when she’s ready.”
Lily sighed and gave him another squeeze before wriggling out from under his arm. “You look tired, Daddy. I’ll get my stuff off the bed so you can take a nap,” she said and stood up. In a matter of moments she’d swept the remainder of her clothes into her bag and had exited the room with a little wave of her fingers.
After she left, Harry sat where he was as he assessed what he was really feeling. Emotionally, he felt drained from the roller coaster of feelings he’d experienced throughout the day. Physically, he was feeling very light-headed and sleepy, and he realized he probably should not have tried Apparating somewhere to get away from the numerous family members still downstairs. Dumb, Harry, really dumb, he berated himself.
He had Apparated onto the bed with his feet touching the floor, so he took off his boots and then pulled his legs up onto the bed one at a time before throwing a colourful afghan over himself and lying down.
He didn’t close his eyes. Instead, he lay there staring at the faded posters. He let his mind wander and he began thinking about the drastic changes in his life and his horribly mixed-up feelings concerning his relationship with his wife.
He thought he’d come to terms with the rapid twists and turns his life had taken in the last few months. Not in a million years had he ever dreamed he’d ever be hurt on the job to the point where he would have to take a medical leave of absence as he was doing now. For the average Auror, there was always a possibility of getting hurt badly enough that a medical leave was a reality, and Harry, because of how volatile the years after the war had been, had counted himself lucky it had taken him this long to have been struck down. However, he had been, and now he was going to survive, but in a different form from the one he’d always lived with… and he was still getting used to it.
Harry was proud of the things he’d learned that would allow him to live an independent life with his family and even go back to work if he chose. Silvia was beginning to hint that the more he learned, the bigger the possibility was that he could resume working; she’d been planting the seeds of desire in his mind with her off-hand remarks about something being important to know about the lifts in the Atrium of the Ministry or what to do with the custom-charmed desk chair Ginny had given him several years ago when he had begun complaining of severe backaches because he spent so much time hunched over his desk. That was all well and good, but he now realized that he didn’t know what he wanted to do. As independently wealthy as he was, he could easily retire to a life of leisure, but he loved being active and where the action was, and the Auror Office was never a dull place to work. He felt the pull of going back to work, knowing that before his accident, the role of Auror was how he defined himself.
The more he thought about it, the more he realized he hadn’t solved his problems or answered his personal questions as he should, because it was infinitely easier to just pretend things were hunky-dory or suppress them to the point of thinking he’d resolved everything he needed to. The fact was, he was still angry, still terrified, still uncertain about a lot of things in his life. If he had to admit one thing to himself, it was how frightened he became when he thought about the changes in his body and how they were affecting everything in his life. What had once been a powerful, agile body, a body able to run a half marathon or build a set of steps using Muggle building and masonry techniques, could now be reduced to a sweating, panting heap after only a few blocks’ trek.
Since he was being truthful with himself, having his sons run interference for him last weekend at King’s Cross had brought home just how far he had to go before he would be confident enough to venture out into the busy London streets by himself. More than once, he’d been brought up short because he still couldn’t see anything to his left. That one limitation worried him most: his job required full peripheral vision. Would the Ministry allow him to go back to his position as Head of the Auror Department if he couldn’t make the requirements? Would he be like Mad-eye Moody, a powerful and knowledgeable wizard—even with his physical limitations—who was forced into retirement because of those limitations? He didn’t want to be, he was still too young! He knew his days of going out on missions were gone completely now, that his fall had sealed his promise to Ginny that he would never go out on missions again. That would make her happy, but could he be happy staying away from the field as he watched the comings and goings of the other Aurors? He couldn’t answer that question and it made him angry that he couldn’t, mostly because he realized that he very much defined who he was by his ability to do his job.
As the anger rose in his chest, Harry forced himself to think about another question that seemed to be answering itself, one with a much more pleasant answer, that of his magic. He’d told Ginny the other night that he’d begun doing accidental magic and that he was learning to control it again. She’d seemed pleased and relieved when he’d told her and at least that had taken some of the uncertainty from his mind on the subject. That he had achieved Apparition today just because he was deliberately determined to get away from the noise and crowding downstairs was a good thing, he decided, but realizing how tired the spell had made him had given him something else to worry about. Would his magic ever attain the level it had been at on the night of the raid? Again, not knowing the answer left him sad and scared and wondering if he should accept the fact that he was probably just as limited magically as he was physically.
The subject of his physical situation was something else he was concerned about. Although he had resigned himself to never walking again, he wondered whether he would ever feel certain sensations again. He and Ginny hadn’t tried becoming intimate since he’d been home this week, they’d been so upset with each other, but last night he’d sworn he heard her crying as they lay in bed together in the sitting room. He’d made the effort to turn over, but found he was too late; Ginny had stopped crying and had fallen asleep. Would he, could he, ever make his wife happy again in bed as well as out? And if he couldn’t, would the touches, kisses, and hugs they shared be enough to keep their love going? Did he have the courage to tell his wife that if she needed more, he would understand if she sought solace in another’s arms?
This thought brought tears to Harry’s eyes because he knew the answer already: even if he understood why Ginny would need to leave him, he would never, ever be able to do the same. He would remain celibate and single the rest of his life because no witch would ever be Ginny.
A gut-wrenching sob escaped him and he hastily stuffed a fist into his mouth to stifle the sound. Since his wife had just up and left this afternoon, he now wondered if the time had come for this discussion. Was Ginny so discouraged with their lack of intimacy that she’d finally just left for good?
Oh, Ginny, please come home! Harry wailed in his mind. I need you more than you know and I’m afraid I’ve become so inadequate that you want to replace me with another!
The sobs were becoming uncontrollable now and much noisier than he liked. Swearing quietly, he grabbed one of the pillows under his head, turned his body towards the wall and buried his face in the pillow, not caring that his tears were soaking into the feathery softness.
Finally, physically tired by the effort to stay as quiet as possible, Harry flopped back onto his back, this time with his eyes closed. Nothing had been solved, but at least he’d given in and released the anger and disappointment he’d been carrying inside all these weeks. Was releasing these emotions what was needed to accept his limitations once and for all? Harry had no idea and as he began drifting off into an uneasy doze, he knew he would just have to be patient.
Teddy Lupin paused outside the closed door on the first landing. He could have sworn he’d just heard someone sob on the other side of the door. Hand on the knob, he paused as he heard footsteps on the stairs below him. He turned to see his beloved Victoire coming towards him and he smiled sadly at her.
“Mon Cher, what is wrong?” Victoire asked as she came to stand beside him. “Why are you going into Aunt Ginny’s old room?”
Startled at her question, Teddy yanked his hand off the knob. “I… I thought I heard someone crying in there,” he said. “It sounded like Harry.”
Victoire sighed. “I think it is,” she said quietly. “Papa found Uncle Harry’s wheelchair down in the scullery and when Uncle Ron cast a Revealing Spell, there was evidence of recently-done magic surrounding the chair and not just on the chair itself. You know, when Uncle Harry has someone shrink it for him.”
Teddy chuckled. “The Aurors have a spell for discovering everything.”
Victoire nodded. “And now you’re being nosy because…?”
“If it is Harry, he may have hurt himself, and with Ginny gone it’s going to be tricky helping him if he’s in real physical pain.”
Another muffled sob reached them through the closed door, making them both turn towards it.
“I don’t think he is in pain other than of his own making, Ted,” Victoire said. “That is the sound of a breaking heart.”
Teddy raised an eyebrow at her. “How do you know?” he asked somewhat suspiciously.
“Girls tend to share their grief over a break-up more than boys do, and if I am correct, Uncle Harry is suffering because he thinks Aunt Ginny doesn’t love him any more,” Victoire said. She reached for Teddy’s hand, giving it a little tug. “Come, darling, let us leave him in peace.”
“But… but…” Teddy sputtered.
“He will be all right, I think,” Victoire said calmly. “If he needs someone, I think Uncle Harry will know who to call and if, for some reason, no one responds, the house will shake if he falls.”
“If you say so…” Reluctantly, Teddy followed Victoire down the stairs and into the kitchen. His sadness over Harry’s mental anguish disappeared when he realized what Bill, Charlie, Albus, James and several of their cousins had decided to entertain themselves with.
A great commotion on the stairs followed by Molly’s shrill “You come back with that!” dragged Harry from the nap that had followed his melancholy thoughts. He opened his eyes just as his nephews Hugo, Louis and Fred as well as his two sons burst into the room. The five of them crowded together just passed the door as if hiding something.
“Dad! Dad! Do you want to fly?” Albus asked excitedly.
“You know I can’t,” Harry said sadly.
“Yes, you can,” Albus insisted. “Look!” And he and Louis stepped aside, pushing James and Hugo out of the way.
Harry’s mouth dropped open and he nearly laughed, for there in front of him was his wheelchair, minus its wheels, but sporting four brooms as its means of propulsion.
“Do you like it, Uncle Harry?” Hugo asked. “We all did something to make it fly. Albus found the old brooms in the shed. James helped Louis and Fred take the wheels off and we all convinced Uncle Bill to do the really complicated spell work.”
“Erm, where are the wheels? I’ll need them after we finish our flight,” Harry said before he could stop himself.
Fred’s head tilted downward in the direction of the kitchen. “Down stairs. Under the Christmas tree. Now are you getting on or not?”
“Erm…” Harry hesitated.
A chorus of “Come on, Uncle Harrys” followed by “it’ll be funs” and “you’ll do greats” erupted from the assembled boys in the doorway. They all looked so eager for him to try their invention that he thought that if he refused, they’d mutiny on him and not give him back his wheels.
“All right, bring it here,” he relented as a smile twitched at the corners of his mouth.
Fred steered the chair over to the bed and pulled out the miniaturized slide board Harry always kept with him. “I’m not sure what you use this for, Uncle Harry, but since you had it in your bag I thought it might be important,” he said.
Harry smiled gratefully at his nephew. “I do need it, Fred. Could you please cancel the Shrinking Charm on it? I need it to slide between the bed and the chair.”
Fred obliged and soon Harry was sitting in the chair, securely strapping himself in. The chair bobbed a bit, not an unpleasant sensation, but definitely a different one from what he was used to. When Fred had re-shrunk the slide board and stowed it away properly, Harry asked, “All right… how do I make this thing go?”
“You do remember how to fly, right Dad?” James teased. “I know you do.”
Harry eyed his son suspiciously. “Not on four brooms at once, I don’t,” he replied. However, he took hold of the two top brooms and leaned forward a little in his seat. Much to his delight, the chair wobbled forward towards the door, causing the boys to cheer enthusiastically.
Slowly, his confidence mounting, Harry flew through the doorway and out onto the landing where he met Bill, Percy and Ron, who were all standing on the stairs with their wands out.
“The boys were afraid you’d crash and hurt yourself on the stairs, mate, and ruin their project,” Ron said, explaining their presence. “We’re here to catch you, just in case.”
Harry smiled for the first time in hours. “Thanks, Ron,” he said, touched by the boys’ concern. Here goes nothing… he thought as he urged the chair forwards and over the edge of the top step. He’d never been very good at slow dives so he was grateful for the back-up. However, none was needed and another cheer went up when Harry successfully arrived on the ground floor.
“I see the boys’ idea actually worked,” Angelina remarked as Harry entered the kitchen. “How does it feel to be flying again?”
Harry accepted the cloak she handed to him, knowing that the next stage was to go flying in the paddock. “The jury’s still out,” he replied, “since I’ve never flown in this particular fashion. It’s a very different sensation.”
“Good to see you have an open mind,” Angelina said, sounding like she approved of his attitude. Harry’s sons and nephews had all reached the ground floor by now and were eagerly filtering towards the kitchen door and the pile of brooms scattered haphazardly on the floor next to it. Angelina inclined her head towards the door. “Care to try your wings outside?”
“Lead the way, Angelina,” Harry said. “I think I’d disappoint the boys if I didn’t try flying with them.”
Angelina grabbed the last broom next to the door and stepped back to allow Harry to exit the kitchen. The cold air felt good to him and as he and Angelina flew slowly down the steps, Hermione came round the corner of the house and joined them.
“The boys are excited you’ve accepted their challenge to fly and assure me the spellwork is solid,” Hermione said, making Harry chuckle.
“The only wobbly part of this strange craft is me,” Harry admitted. “You coming? I’m much slower than the boys are and having you walk beside me will help with the tag-along feeling.”
“Of course I’ll come,” Hermione said as she fell in beside him. Together, they set out for the paddock with Angelina flying in circles around them.
A/N: So now you have Harry’s side of the catharsis. Both spouses seem to have a knack, at the moment, for slipping into self-torturous thoughts when all they really need is another talk together. That will come in a future chapter, for those who were wondering…
Many thanks to Jedi34, Mutt n Feathers, RebeccaRipple, Rosina Ferguson, and RSS for their time and input into this chapter. You have made it better with your comments and suggestions. I thank Aggiebell, my beta, for patiently going through the chapter twice just to make sure it I put my commas in all the right places. On final thank you goes to you, my readers, for reading my story. Your comments are greatly appreciated and I’m always excited when I see a new review.