Harry was cleaning up the tables that had just finished up their tea when a man he had never seen before came in and walked over. He was also the kind of well-dressed man that didn’t often come into the shop. Usually, it was collectors or people who enjoyed finding lost treasures or trinkets. This was the type of man that would be seen walking into a bespoke shop and coming out with a perfectly tailored suit, or several. In fact, that was exactly what he was wearing, along with a very posh overcoat. He was older, but Harry could admit to himself that the man was attractive.
“Afternoon, how can I help you?”
The man looked up and smiled a bright, warm smile and Harry found himself immediately relaxing around him.
“I’d like a pot of Earl Grey, and what kind of sweets are on the menu today?”
“There is a blueberry and basil muffin, a plate of various cookies, or a peach Tarte Tatin.”
The man thought about it a moment as he looked around the shop.
“The blueberry muffin sounds perfect.”
“All right, I will be back shortly.” Harry was intrigued by the man and he didn’t know why. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t helped strangers before. The shop was still doing a brisk business even after the end of the Christmas and New Year holidays. Many came in for the tea service, then stayed to shop. It was mostly word of mouth, but there had been days when customers would actually wait for a table to be ready.
The tea was ready and Harry brought out the tray with the freshly warmed muffin out to his customer.
“That looks delicious.”
“Well, if you need anything else I’ll be in the shop.”
“Actually, I wanted to find something interesting for my partner for our anniversary. But, I think I’m just going to sit here and enjoy this for the moment.” The man smiled at Harry as he took out a book and settled in to read. The whole thing unsettled Harry a little and he wasn’t sure why. The man didn’t feel threatening, but he felt, odd.
“Take your time and when you’re ready I can show you some things. Um, is your partner male? Female? Sorry if that sounded indelicate.”
“Not at all. It’s a valid question. My partner is male, and probably just a tad more fastidious than myself.”
Harry laughed as he turned towards the shop.
“I’ll look around and pull a few things that you might like.”
“Thank you. Excellent muffin.” The man started to read his book and Harry frowned at the whole exchange. It was weird, but Harry didn’t feel like he was in any danger, so he walked the shop and pulled some items that felt right.
After his first few weeks at the shop, Harry had realised that he had a knack for finding just the exact right thing for his customers. He wasn’t trying to use magic, but he sometimes wondered if his magic was leading him. He didn’t fight it anymore because when he had tried to, he had gotten very sick. He had been in bed for several days getting over a terrible fever. Harry wondered if him not using his magic had made him sick. When he had finally felt well enough to go back to work, he didn’t fight whatever it was. He listened to it, and he made a game out of it. Then, when a customer got excited over being given just the right thing they were looking for, Harry felt a small sense of satisfaction.
For the next half hour, Harry thought carefully as he pulled several things that called to him and laid them out on the counter. Books, a few antique watches, an odd trinket or two, and some rare symphony recordings. He left them there and helped others as they came in to browse and buy.
This was one of Ansel’s wandering days, as he called them. Harry was fine running things alone, but he knew they needed help, and Ansel said they would put out a sign. The two school kids they had helping them over Christmas had to go back to school and Harry kind of missed them.
“This is interesting. You just happen to find several things that are right up Spencer’s alley. These books,” The man picked one up and started to read a little from them. “First editions of Isaac Asimov. I’m not sure how he would react to those.”
Harry furrowed his brow and wondered if he had made a mistake.
“I don’t know, they just felt right.”
“Hmm. Let me think about those. Now, the records, these two Beethoven I’ll take, and well now, this is gorgeous.” The man held up one of the antique pocket watches that Harry had pulled from the locked collection behind the counter. “This Swiss hunting watch he will love. I’ll take this, the Beethoven, and what the hell, throw in the books.”
Harry was more than a little impressed. The watch alone was over four thousand pounds. But, Harry didn’t bat an eye as he wrapped it up and put it in a box. He rang up the man and added on the tea.
“I don’t mean to be presumptuous, but you look like you haven’t been sleeping. You can tell me to go to hell, but I’m in the business of helping people, and I don’t know, I feel like I should be at least offering to help.”
Harry took the man’s credit card and tried not to be impressed. He had only ever seen an American Express Black card once since working at the shop. He wasn’t sure how he felt being asked about his personal life. When he handed back the man’s credit card and wrapped up his purchases, Harry saw nothing but compassion on his face.
“I guess I don’t get enough sleep. But, my mind always seems to be busy.”
“Ah, I know that well. Spencer often has a difficult time settling. His mind is always on twenty or thirty different things at once. Of course, it took him a long time to talk to me about the things that were behind his insomnia. Often the past has a way of derailing us in ways that we aren’t aware of.”
Harry narrowed his eyes and glared at the man wondering what he was getting at.
“Maybe our past shaped us and there really isn’t anything we can do about it.”
“Of course there is. Talking to someone, working out things that have never been dealt with can only have a positive effect, but only if the person is willing to change. It isn’t easy, but I like to think that what I do is worth it.”
Harry grabbed the items that the man had not chosen to take and started to put them back in their proper places. Customers were coming in, and it was nearing the late lunch crowd when the shop would get very busy.
“I have customers. I hope your partner enjoys his gifts.”
“Here, take my card and just think about what I said.” The man handed Harry a card.
“Tony Paddington? You mean like the Paddingtons?” Harry wasn’t quite as shocked as he sounded. It went a long way to explaining the amount of wealth.
“Yes, but my offer is real.”
“I don’t have a lot of money. I’m not even sure I could afford someone like you.” Harry still put the card in his pocket and continued on with his work.
“Don’t worry. That is something I work out on a client by client basis. Just, at least think about it.”
Tony held out his hand and Harry took it.
“I ah, Harrison. Harrison Black.”
“Nice to meet you, Harrison.”
“Well, I ah, I really do need to get back to work.”
Tony nodded and after taking his purchases left the shop, but Harry felt like there was something else under the conversation they had. The whole exchange felt odd and out of place, but Harry couldn’t put his finger on it. He pulled the card out of his pocket at stared at it till his magic prodded him a little to pay attention. Slipping the card back in his pocket, Harry really did get back to work, but his mind for the rest of the day kept thinking about Tony and his offer of help.
The dream was one he had been having quite often since even before his final confrontation with Voldemort. He was walking the halls of Hogwarts which were barely lit with Lumos spells, giving a dark, eerie feeling that made Harry’s skin crawl. The portraits had elongated to bizarre proportions and twisted themselves here and there. Screams could be heard, and few were dripping with blood and gore. The hallway he was walking down kept getting longer and longer, seemingly endless in Harry’s eyes. His heart pounded as more screaming and horrific sounds of pain and torture came from some of the rooms he passed. Frantically he tried to open doors, tried to help but they weren’t just locked, they were sealed by powerful spells that Harry couldn’t break. He pounded and pounded, begged to be let in, begged for the torture to stop, but nothing he did had any effect. Crying out in frustration he hurled himself away from the door and fell to his knees begging for someone, anyone to help him.
The dream changed and he was farther down the endless hallway, staircases appeared and disappeared, faces floated in front of him, vulgar and twisted. He looked down at his hands that were now bleeding, fingers twisted, his wrists bent back in unnatural ways to the point he could no longer keep a wand in his hand.
“Harry!” Harry turned towards the shouting and saw Hermione trying to reach out for him, but as hard as he tried he couldn’t get to her. The garish form of Voldemort had grabbed her and held her fast around her waist. Her hair flew loose, like she was swimming in water, or the wind had come up from behind her. Voldemort’s face twisted in a sickening grin as he laughed and pointed a wand at Harry. Just as an Unforgivable curse was thrown at him, Harry woke with a scream locked in his throat.
“Harrison?” Edie sat up and rubbed Harry’s back. “Was it the nightmares again?”
Harry didn’t say anything as he got up out of bed and padded over to his bathroom, stripped, and turned on the shower as hot as he dared. Bracing himself on the opposite wall of the shower, Harry closed his eyes and let the water try to soothe him. He attempted to block out the emotions that always plagued him when he woke from one of his nightmares.
“Harry?” Edie came into the bathroom and pulled the shower curtain aside enough to see Harry.
“Please don’t call me that.” Harry almost growled. He felt his magic flare and knew he needed to control his temper. He had been doing so well, everything had been going almost too well. Then the nightmares started in full force right around the end of November, and his insomnia was getting worse.
“I’m sorry. But, let me help.”
“I don’t need help. I’m fine, just need to shake off the dreams.” Harry noticed how biting his tone was. He knew he had done it to make her go away and instantly regretted it.
“Right, I’ll leave you alone then.” Harry peeked around the curtain and saw Edie storm out of the bathroom, then slam the door shut.
“Shite,” Harry cursed at himself. He didn’t want to hurt Edie, she had become important to him the last few months since they had started their affair. Sighing, he turned off the water and grabbed a towel to wipe off. Using just a small amount of magic, he added a quick-drying charm to the towel to make quick work of drying his body, then walked out to see Edie sitting up on the bed.
“Look, I’m an arse. I’m sorry.”
“You always say that, Harrison. These nightmares are getting worse and you won’t talk about them. You pull away and tell me that you’re fine. You are not fine. You barely sleep. You get up and bake all night, or sit in that goddamned chair looking out the window. You have dark circles forming under your eyes and you’ve lost weight because I, for a fact know you aren’t eating as you should.
“I care about you, Harrison. You’re sweet and as a boyfriend, you’re great in so many ways, but you don’t talk to me. We barely go out anymore, all you want to do is hole up here in this flat. What are you afraid of?”
Harry stared at her, his mind pinging that she called him her boyfriend. They had not made any proclamations with each other, he was enjoying the casual affair that was between them.
“I…can’t talk about it, Edie. Please don’t push this.”
“Fine. Go bake, go sit in your chair and waste away. I need someone who is willing to open up, to be honest with me. I don’t think you’re there, and until you get help with whatever it is that has been haunting you this won’t work.” Edie shoved herself off the bed and dressed quickly, grabbed her handbag and stood there shaking her head.
“It’s late. Please, don’t leave.”
“I’m sorry, Harrison. I think we need a little time apart.” Harry moved like he was going to grab her arm, but stopped himself. He didn’t want to hurt her, especially not in anger. He watched her walk out the door and again he shoved the hurt deep down inside of him. Finding some sweatpants and a t-shirt, Harry threw them on, then went to the kitchen and pulled out one of his baking books. His collection had grown over the months, Ansel even gave him a few here and there. Luna for Christmas had given him a collection of new ones.
Hours later after he had several things out on cooling racks, Harry walked to his chair, settled in and watched the stars.
Harry was looking in his fridge and kicked himself for not going to the market for a few essentials. What he had to fix for dinner amounted to moldy cheese and stale bread. Most of the things he had in the fridge went towards his baking. He had a separate budget out of the profits from the tea side of the shop. He used that to buy ingredients for his baking and put anything over into an account he had set-up at the bank. Harry was very strict with himself, he didn’t take from his baking supplies, even if he got hungry. He wasn’t used to it anymore, but his memory was sometimes too long and days spent with little food often reared their ugly head.
He shut the fridge and leaned back against his counter, wondering what he was going to do. He had not been to the pub since his fight with Edie. He was both still upset but scared as well and he could fully admit that. She was the first person since Ginny that he cared for in that way and he had screwed that up, but he wasn’t sure how to fix it.
“Well, you’ve been a right arse, Harry.”
Harry jumped when he heard the voice from behind him and on instinct called for his wand, the lid of his trunk made a loud bang and almost made him jump from the sound. He spun around and cursed under his breath. Heart pounding in his chest, his breathing was ragged as he settled down from the shock.
“Merlin, Nev, what the hell were you thinking? And what did you do, make an apparition point in my flat?” Harry’s voice rose as he stood pointing his wand at Neville.
“Last time Luna and I were here, we did it while you went to pick up dinner for us. Even called on a Goblin to help. Don’t worry, they are sworn to secrecy.”
“And why the hell did you lot do that?” Harry glared at his friend before storming over to his trunk and set his wand inside of it.
“Because we are worried about you. Now, I have been ordered by Luna not to return unless I had you with me. And I would very much like to keep my fiance happy.” Neville returned Harry’s glare but crossed his arms over his chest as well.
“Nev, please I just…”
“Want to sit here and brood? It’s been too long since you’ve spent any time with Teddy. The couple of hours at Christmas does not count. So, get your stupid arse dressed, I am taking you to the house and you are going to like it.”
“When did you get so bossy?” Harry groused as he grabbed what he hoped were clean jeans and a shirt.
“When my best friend started acting like a Peruvian Vipertooth protecting her young.”
Harry got his trainers on and stood.
“Did you mean that, Nev?”
“That you’ve been acting like a snarling ashwang? Yes, I meant it.”
Harry actually laughed and shook his head.
“No, I meant about being my best friend.”
“Well, of course, I meant it you git. Now hold on a moment.”
“Still can’t believe you put an apparition point in my flat,” Harry’s grin belied any anger he might have had towards Neville for going behind his back. But, he could understand why his friends had done it.
After landing and Harry recovered from apparating he shook his head, then walked towards the house. Teddy was there and got so excited that he almost had a flare of accidental magic. But Andromeda was there to shield the toddler before he did anything truly bad.
“Well, Neville was right. You look like shite.”
“Oh, gee thanks Dromeda. Not like I already got that from him.”
“Well, you come along and let me at least get a spot of tea down you before I tell you just exactly what I think of how you’ve been isolating yourself.”
Harry went to make a snarky comment, but Teddy pulled on his pant leg.
“Hawwy, up.” Harry laughed at Teddy’s antics, then was lifted into his arms and held close. He prayed to Tonks and Remus to ask for guidance and to help him figure out what the hell he was doing because he felt like he was failing Teddy in so many ways.
“Just love him, Harry, that’s all he wants. Your love and your time.”
Harry kissed Teddy’s forehead then laughed when his hair turned a very interesting shade of blue. Teddy’s laugh and unbridled joy was always a boon to Harry’s very soul. He didn’t know what to say to Luna, so he stayed quiet for the time being.
Dinner had been good, Luna made him eat more than he would have lately. He appreciated her mother henning more than he had Molly Weasley’s. Where Molly was a sledgehammer and just expected Harry to fall in line with the rest of her family, Luna was quietly confident and caring. She genuinely cared for and respected Harry. Even if she scolded him for not taking care of himself as he should.
He was outside near Neville’s greenhouse looking up at the sky, a glass was pressed into his hand.
“That’s all she’ll let you have.”
“Thanks.” Harry took a sip of the firewhisky and let it burn going down. The bench he was sitting on had been spelled with a cushioning spell and it was very comfortable. “I can’t sleep, Nev. I can’t settle my mind enough to go sleep. I keep having these night terrors and I feel like every time I take a few steps forward…” Harry faltered and made a gesture that made sense only to him. He thought that maybe he was going a little crazy.
“Harry, did you ever go see a mind healer after everything?”
“No. But who should I have trusted? I’m the poster boy for the fucking Wizarding World, Nev.” Harry stood and started pacing around, agitation and anxiety formed in every line of his body. “The Boy-Who-Lived, The Hero of Hogwarts, The Vanquisher what other names have they called me? I’m just a boy who was caught up in something I never asked for.”
Neville watched him as he paced and Harry saw the sympathetic look on his face.
“Harry, you need to talk to someone. You can’t keep letting this eat you up.”
Harry sat back down and leaned forward with his head in his hands trying to work through what he thought might be a panic attack. Breathing deep, Harry hated feeling this fragile and vulnerable, but maybe Neville was right, he thought. An arm wrapped around his shoulders, giving him comfort. When he worked through the burst of emotions he sat up and leaned into Neville.
“You really should have been my best friend from the beginning. I’m sorry if I ever treated you less than, Nev.”
Neville softly laughed and bumped his shoulder with Harry’s.
“You were there when it counted, and you’re here now. Luna and I are always going to be here for you, Harry. Even if you act like an utter prat.”
Harry finished off his firewhisky, stood up with Neville beside him.
“Thank you, Neville. I’ll think about what you said.” Harry smiled but didn’t really feel it as he clasped Neville’s shoulder then apparated home.
Searching through his discarded jeans, Harry found the card that Tony had given him. He read it again, Dr. Tony Dimitri Paddington, Psychologist. Harry knew what he needed to do as he pulled out his phone, not caring that is was after hours, and left a message that he was wanting to talk.