Harry was pacing back and forth in front of Dr. Paddington who was looking at him with such patience Harry didn’t know what to think about that.
“Harrison, for this to work, you need to actually talk to me. It’s been a month now and I’m wondering if you really do want the help, or if you are here because your friends talked you into it.”
Harry stopped mid-stride and turned to look at Dr. Paddington. Sighing heavily, Harry flopped down on the couch and scrubbed his face.
“I guess I just don’t know where to start.”
“How about we start with what happened in our first session. I thought when you stormed out you were not going to come back. I have not pushed you to find out what made you so upset, but I think we need to get that out of the way before we move on.”
Harry leaned back on the couch and looked up to the ceiling trying to get his spinning thoughts in some kind of order. He knew he acted terribly, but when he found out that Dr. Paddington was a Wizard, it had angered him and he stormed out.
“All right. Let me ask you a question first. When you came to the shop, did you know who I was and that I was working there?”
Dr. Paddington set his notebook aside and leaned forward a little.
“Of course I knew who you were when I saw you for the first time. Which was when I walked into your charming shop. Spencer loved the items you picked out, by the way. He especially adores the pocket watch. But, no I did not know that you, Harry Potter, were working there.”
“You already said you aren’t a mind healer, but a genuine muggle psychologist, why?”
Dr. Paddington took a deep breath and leaned a little closer towards Harry.
“As much as I respect many of the mind healers in Wizarding Britain, I always thought the use of magic on the mind was a little invasive. I want you, or any of my patients really, to work through their issues themselves. I don’t want my magic to do it for you. Plus, all of the scandals that came out about mind healers who manipulated their patients for very unethical behaviors appalled me. Knowing some were Death Eaters, I just knew I needed to find a better way.
“I’m not opposed to prescribing potions for sleep, they are much less addicting than most muggle prescriptions. As well as potions for anxiety and depression. But I don’t want to rely on them. If, as we talk through your issues, I feel you might need something for a short time, I will prescribe it for you. Whether you take it or not, that is entirely on you. I’m not going to handhold you, Harrison. This work will be hard. There will be frustrating times, and times where you have a breakthrough. But, you have to be willing to do the work.”
Harry knew Dr. Paddington was right, he just wasn’t prepared for how difficult it would be to actually start.
“You can call me Harry if you want.”
Dr. Paddington lifted the side of his mouth in a crooked smile then sat up in his chair. He grabbed his notebook and Harry felt like he was being scrutinized.
“Well, that’s a start. Please feel free to call me Tony, or Dr. Tony if that is more comfortable for you.”
“I don’t even know where to start.”
“This doesn’t have to be linear. We can start with whatever you are feeling right now.”
“Tired. I’ve been so tired lately, yet I can’t sleep. I can’t shut off my mind and on the occasions where I can actually sleep, I have these terrible nightmares. I wake up sweating, anxiety and fear grip me and it feels like I can’t move on.”
“What do you do when you can’t sleep?”
“Sometimes I bake, or sometimes I read till the words no longer make sense to me. Or I have this ridiculously oversized reading chair that sits in front of my window. I’ll make a pot of tea and just stare up and watch the night sky.”
“What is it you are trying to get out of these nightly vigils?”
Harry thought about it for a few moments and just decided to say the first thing that came into his mind.
“I guess I’m trying to find answers to what it all meant. What has my life meant? To be a pawn? To be this fucking hero? To be abused, manipulated, and thrust into something I was ill-prepared for?”
“And do you learn anything?”
Harry looked down at his clasped hands and shook his head.
“Here’s what I want you to do next time you find yourself sitting at your window. Have a notebook with you and write down whatever is going through your mind at that moment. Doesn’t matter if it makes sense or not. It doesn’t have to, but in writing down what it is that is keeping you watching the night sky will eventually reveal itself.”
Harry nodded. He wasn’t sure what that would accomplish, but he would try anything to pull him out of his functional sleepwalking, as he called it in his head.
“I’m willing to try it.”
“Good. Let’s put that aside for the time being. After you have done that for a few nights we’ll go over it and talk about it.” Tony made some notes in his notebook and waited a moment for Harry to settle more.
“Now, why don’t we talk about the biggest elephant in the room. You’re not wanting anything to do with magic?”
Harry felt restless again, but he tamped down on the urge to get up again, though the anxiety was there making him restless. He felt it in his very muscles, the physical manifestation of his mental state. His legs and arms itched to move, but his mind was running at a thousand miles a minute trying to settle. He knew he was fidgeting, but he just couldn’t help it.
“What has it gotten me? My parents, dead. My Godfather, dead. Friends, people I cared about gone as well. Did you know that I died on that field in front of Hogwarts, Voldemort’s sickening laugh following me?”
“No. I didn’t know that. Do you want to talk about that?”
Harry felt his heart beating too fast in his chest as he remembered that day almost as clearly as it had happened yesterday and not twenty months prior.
“I woke up in some kind of white space and Dumbledore was there. And I was so damned angry with him, but he chose that fucking moment to finally be honest with me. There were so many things I wanted to say to him afterward but,” Harry looked at Tony and felt the tears prick at the corner of his eyes. “My Mum and Dad, they were there and for the first time since I was a baby, I could go to them and hold them. Then Sirius was there and it almost broke me.
“I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay and have the family that was taken away from me so cruelly. Sometimes at night, I can still feel them holding me. I feel my Mum’s kiss on my forehead. My Dad’s grip on my shoulder. I didn’t want to come back.
“There are days, Tony when it’s too much and I think of them I want to go back.” Harry felt the tears fall as he admitted things to Tony that he had not even told his best friends. He felt the grief of his family’s loss all over again.
“Sounds like you had a choice to make. A very difficult one. What was it that made you come back?”
Harry took a shuddering breath as he wiped his hands back and forth on his trousers.
“My Mum. Seeing what that dark bastard and his followers were doing to my friends. I made the choice to come back but, it killed me inside. I was again taken away from my family.” Harry wiped his eyes, then a box of tissues was placed next to him.
“Sometimes doing what’s right is not necessarily the easy path. You saved a lot of people, Harry.”
“I know that. I know up here,” Harry pointed at his head then dropped his hand in his lap. “I know what I did was right. I’m always doing what is right, but when was I ever going to do what was right for me. I had never really had a chance to be me, whoever the hell that is.”
“That’s why you left the Wizarding World.”
“Of course, dammit. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t be myself because I was still trying to live up to everyone else’s expectations. I’d had it. I didn’t even say goodbye, just left presents and a few notes, then left.”
“How did you feel about that? When you left everything behind?”
Harry grabbed some of the tissues and wiped his face and eyes.
“Scared. I had no idea where I was going or what I was going to do. I knew I could get lost in a bigger city and London was my first choice. I don’t regret it. I don’t regret anything in the last few months. But I still feel so…”
“Do you blame magic for what has happened to you?”
“Sometimes. Sometimes I wonder if my parents hadn’t been fighting against Voldemort the first time, if they hadn’t had magic, would I even be here? Would they still be alive? Would they have even known each other? Questions I can never answer.”
“Then stop trying to. Those questions will only stop you from moving on, Harry.” Tony wrote in his notebook and watched Harry closely.
Harry looked up a moment and knew deep down that Tony was right. He just kept going in circles with questions that would never be answered, no matter how hard he tried.
“I’m going to give you another exercise. When you start to ask yourself those questions, I want you to immediately stop and redirect your mind to something else. It won’t be easy at first, but each time you try, it will get easier. Think of something that makes you happy, whether that be your baking, reading, your godson, whatever it is in that moment, turn your thoughts to something else. Then, I want you to write down in a separate notebook, the triggers that sent you down that spiral. What was the situation that made you ponder these questions.”
Harry looked towards the window in Tony’s office and frowned. He wasn’t sure how these exercises were actually going to help, but he was more than willing to try anything at this point. He wasn’t moving on, not really and maybe this was the push he needed.
“I’ll try.” Harry conceded after a few moments of contemplation.
“I think maybe we should end our session here. You have a few things to think about Harry, you’re only going to move on when you do the work. I know that all of this is painful, and sometimes I wish it wasn’t, but you have a lot of things to sort out. There is no rush, so don’t try to.”
“I know. There’s just so much.”
“It seems daunting right now, but that’s why we tackle things slowly. Work through one thing at a time.”
Tony wrote in his notebook for a few moments and looked to Harry like he had something else on his mind.
“Have you ever truly said goodbye to your parents, or to Sirius?”
Harry thought he had, but after a moment of introspection, he knew he really hadn’t.
“No. No, I haven’t.”
“I’d like to give you one more assignment. Write letters to each of those people you are holding onto. You can keep them in a safe place, burn them in ritual, or even visit their graves, but whatever you do, try to find your own way to say goodbye. Then, recount in your journal how you feel.”
Harry rubbed over his chest where his heart was and knew that would be the most difficult task, but he would try.
“It doesn’t have to happen right away. Take your time and when you are ready, follow through. Okay. I’ve given you a lot, if you have any problems or you get stuck, you can call me at any time. You are not alone in this Harry.”
That alone let Harry breathe easier. Even surrounded by people who had cared for him he had felt so very alone. Now, he had someone there, someone to help him in a very real way and he thought that maybe, just maybe he could do this.
Harry stood outside the pub and warred inside himself. It had been weeks since he had been inside, and weeks since he had seen Edie. He felt guilty for not calling or coming to see her after their argument.
“‘Scuse me mate,” a man to his side was trying to get into the pub.
“Oh, um, sorry.” Harry stepped to the side and leaned against the wall, looking around him for a moment before he pulled his courage around him and finally went inside. Harry’s eyes landed on the bar area and smiled to himself to see that Edie was indeed working. Not looking right at her, Harry walked down to his normal seat, grabbed a menu and settled in. It was a few moments before a pint was put in front of him.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had you try a red ale before.”
Harry finally took his eyes off the menu and settled on Edie a moment later.
“Edie. Look, I ah, I’m sorry for pushing you away.”
“Harrison, I like you. I like you more than is probably healthy for my sanity, but I didn’t go home and breakdown eating pints of ice cream and sobbing at sappy romances. I’m a big girl, and though it did hurt, I didn’t fall apart.”
Harry wasn’t sure how that made him feel. He knew they weren’t courting some great romance, but he had fun with Edie and maybe that’s all they were ever going to be.
“I feel terrible that I haven’t called, or come by. I know I should owe you an explanation, but when I say I can’t talk about it. I do mean that.”
Edie came over and leaned on the bar and looked Harry square in the eye.
“Harrison Black, you are a wonderful person, but you’re also a complicated mess. I think you need to figure yourself out or you could potentially hurt someone who fell for those green eyes and boyish looks. I know whatever is in your past had to be pretty bad, but you don’t trust anyone enough to talk about it. Until you can trust, any relationship you have is going to end badly.”
Harry took a sip of his ale and nodded his appreciation. The taste was just a bit bitter but had a nice nutty undertone. He pushed the glass back and forth on the bar until he could get his thoughts in order.
“You’re acting quite mature and I’m not sure how to handle that.” Harry lifted the corner of his mouth as he looked up at Edie through half-closed eyes.
Edie laughed as she stood back up.
“Acting like an adult, you mean?”
Harry laughed and shook his head. He picked up his menu to look at it once more.
“Now, you’re too thin, Harrison. You need to eat, what do you want to order?”
Harry ended up getting a bowl of stew with a basket of bread. The ale went well with his dinner, as did the conversation with Edie when she made occasion to wander over and talk to him. His guilt over how their affair ended lightened considerably, and when he was done they made plans to go to the cinema, as friends. Harry knew Edie was right, he was closing himself off to the outside world too much.
Small steps, Harry thought, then after paying for his meal, headed out to the stationary shop he had passed earlier in the day. If he was going to be writing down things he at least wanted something attractive to write them in. After spending some time picking out journals that he liked, Harry made his way back to his flat.
Getting on the computer, Harry played a few games to settle his mind, then got up and made his evening tea. Taking one of the journals, and the pot of tea he curled up in his chair and watched the night sky, but this time he wrote down what was going through his mind. He wrote till he felt it was all out of his system, then watched as the stars twinkled in the sky. This time, instead of feeling a sense of utter despair and loneliness, Harry felt himself actually smiling.
Tony put the journal aside and took off his glasses, watching Harry who was waiting patiently for his input.
“You’ve had quite a lot on your mind. I’m not surprised after reading this that you aren’t sleeping. This,” Tony tapped the closed journal with his fingertips a few times. “It’s a lot of guilt you are holding onto.”
Harry looked out the window and knew the truth of what Tony was saying. When he had read back over the words he had written, not even he had understood the depth of the guilt he was carrying around.
“How did you feel after getting all of that down on paper?”
Harry turned his face back towards Tony and wiped his hands on his trousers.
“Like this lead weight I had been carrying in my gut was lifted. I mean, I knew mentally that I wasn’t responsible for those that had died. But, I felt the weight of responsibility. Like I had not been fast enough, or good enough to stop Voldemort.”
“I mean, it’s not all just magically gone, is it? I still feel these things and I know it’s stupid, but I guess the burden doesn’t feel so heavy.”
“We can work through that Harry. But, to get there I think we need to start further back. Tell me about the day you got your Hogwarts letter.”
Harry told Tony everything. From where his Aunt and Uncle made him live up to the Island and Hagrid finding them. The smashed birthday cake, then riding away on Hagrid’s bike. Harry understood how much resentment he had not only towards his family but the adults in his life who were supposed to have been watching him to see if he was all right.
“I came to understand that someone, somewhere had to know what was happening with me. I begged Dumbledore not to send me back there. If he wasn’t a dark fucker, why would he keep me in a place where I just kept getting hurt?”
Harry could see empathy in Tony’s eyes.
“I’m sorry, Harry. That isn’t a question I can answer. With Dumbledore gone, I’m afraid that you may never know the full answer to that question. There is the simple one, where you are isolated and beaten down so much that you become the sacrifice that saves the world, so to speak. But, I have to think it’s more complex than that. Consider all of the possibilities and reasons and you may get close to an answer, but Harry, that kind of thinking can and has been driving you to guilt, isolation, and depression. I know its hard, but those questions you’ll never know the full answer to, you are going to have to learn to let them go.”
Harry knew that. Deep down past the pain, guilt, depression, and frustration, he knew that the questions he was circling around and around would never be answered. The one person in the world that could have given him answers was dead and gone and Harry was going to have to come to terms with that.
The shop was still doing brisk business as was the tea portion. Harry was teaching himself more recipes and broadening the selections that customers could enjoy. He was especially proud of the cakes he had been making.
Harry had been aware of trying to get out of the apartment more often, Neville took as many opportunities as he could to come around to coax him out for a drink or two. Andromeda would talk him into outings with Teddy and he and Edie would have movie ‘dates’. The friendship he had with Edie was precious to him and Harry didn’t want to mess that up.
He also tentatively started to date. He didn’t push anything, but when someone caught his interest, he would ask them out. He had even asked a couple of male customers he met out on dates and found he enjoyed their company as much as the women he went out with. It wasn’t many, but Harry was beginning to actually enjoy being out and meeting new people.
The sessions with Tony were hard. Harry had never told anyone of the things that happened to him with the Dursley’s and lately that was coming up more and more in his therapy. He got a lot of things off his chest about his life with them and was grateful that Tony did know about magic and the Wizarding world because if he had tried to do this with a muggle psychologist, Harry would have had to hold back a lot of what he was going through. With Tony, he could be completely honest and open.
Harry was thinking about the last few months and how he was letting go more and more. The writing was helping him sleep, and when he had nightmares, Harry would wake-up, write it all down, then he would roll over and go back to sleep. The deep circles had started to fade and Harry was beginning to see his old self in the mirror again.
He was serving customers while he was contemplating all of this in his head, taking stock of his life in the two years since his leaving the Wizarding World.
“Yes, I’d like to speak to the person who I keep hearing about their baking skills?”
Harry heard a woman speaking with Ansel. He didn’t respond right away as he finished filling teapots, serving up customers’ orders, cleaning tables that had left. He kept one ear open as the woman spoke with Ansel.
“That would be Harrison. He’s right over there,” Ansel said as Harry looked up.
“Thank you.” The woman turned and headed towards one of the empty tables. “May I sit?”
“Of course. If you’d like a menu.” Harry pulled one from the small pouch of them that hung on a little partition that had been built to separate the small kitchen from the teashop.
“Thank you. I think I would like to try one of each. And a pot of the Earl Grey with Jasmine please.”
“I’ll be right out.” Harry wasn’t sure what to make of the request, usually only when several people came in together did they order one of everything. Harry worked diligently to put together a tray and bring it out to his customer.
“Would you like me to tell you what today’s selections are?”
The woman smiled and nodded.
“Here we have a lemon and basil olive oil cake.” Harry put a small round yellow cake with a pretty design in icing sugar. “A chocolate fancier, a mini apple tart with a sweetened sour cream topping, some tiramisu, and a plate of assorted sweet biscuits.” Harry set the tea in the middle of the table with all of the accompaniments. He excused himself then went to help Ansel with some inventory.
“What is that all about?” Harry asked under his breath as he watched the tables to see if they needed help.
“Don’t know, my boy.” Ansel watched the woman as well.
After a while, the woman cleaned off her hands, she had only taken a few bits of each which confused Harry even more. When it looked like she wasn’t going to have anymore, Harry walked over to see if he could do anything else for her.
“Would it be possible to take these with me?”
“Of course. Just give me a moment.” Harry gathered up the plates, took them back to the kitchen and boxed them up for her. He brought the box with her check back out to her.
“Those are excellent young man. Can you tell me who it is that you get your treats from?”
“Oh, that’s me. I ah, I do all the baking.”
“You are very talented. Where did you learn, or train?”
Harry blushed a little as he tried not to fidget under the scrutiny.
“I ah, I didn’t. I sort of taught myself.”
“Yes. Very talented. What is your name?”
“Harrison, I’d like to offer you a job.” The woman handed Harry a business card. “If you’re interested, please meet me here, say tomorrow at noon, and we’ll talk.”
Harry took the card and wasn’t quite sure what to say. Margaret Whiting, Owner, and Chef, Saffron Bay, Bistro Cafe. Harry felt the moisture in his mouth go dry. He had heard of the restaurant. It was one of those ones that had waitlists a mile long and celebrities talked about in fluff pieces.
“Um, alright. I’ll be there.”
“Good. Now, I will let you get back to it, and don’t be late.” Margaret stood, paid her check and walked out leaving a very stunned Harry standing there wondering what the hell just happened.