Arc 1: Chapter 1

Harry laid in the bed that he had been sleeping in over the last six months. The war was over. Voldemort was dead, but at what cost? He thought as he turned on his back and looked up to the ceiling. Harry didn’t feel like he was living any kind of life. It felt like some bizarre half-life that he was going through. Everything he had gone through over the last seven years culminated in this, whatever it was. 

Harry was grateful that Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had let him stay in their house, he hadn’t wanted to be alone. He knew he could rebuild at Godric’s Hollow, but what was the point? He could live in Grimmauld Place, but again, what was the point. Continued abuse through the portraits? To be in a place that brought back painful memories? He could sell it all and be done with it and Harry wondered if that wouldn’t be better for his own mental health in the long run. When he dug deep and thought about his situation, he kind of did want to be alone, but he also wanted to be around people. Friends, those he could rely on? Maybe? He wasn’t even sure anymore.

“Fuck,” Harry exclaimed to no one in particular in a very unwizardly like fashion. His life had been full of abuse, manipulations, gearing for a war that he had hoped never happened, and yet it did. He never wanted to be a part of so much pain and death. The adults all around him failed him on so many levels and Harry was just done with all of them.

Sitting up in bed Harry looked out of the window into the clear December night sky and had the urge to grab his broom and just fly. He wanted to fly away from everyone and everything because when he looked deep inside himself it all just hurt. His eyes trailed over the room Mrs. Weasley had given him and Harry, for the first time in months realised that he had never unpacked. His trunk was still sitting in the corner, clothes piled up in front of it. He conjured what he needed and didn’t really care one whit about what in the everloving hell he wore. Nothing mattered. Not clothes, not unpacking, nothing. Harry looked at the empty cage sitting on top of his trunk and for the first time since that night when people he cared about all turned into doppelgangers of himself and he went on the run he let out a sob. He had not yet mourned Hedwig properly. Her death was for him only. His grief he wouldn’t give to anyone else. He had given of himself so much over the years that Hedwig was solely his own grief to bear. 

Pushing himself off the bed Harry took the few steps to Hedwig’s cage and with shaking fingers, gently touched the gilded bars and finally let himself feel her loss. She had been his first animal companion and she had loved him as much as he had loved her and Harry didn’t think that he would ever get over the loss of her. 

“I couldn’t save you, sweetheart, I’m so sorry.” Harry let the tears fall as he closed his eyes and said his goodbyes. Harry knew if he wanted he could obtain another snowy owl, but it would never be the same. 

Touching the trunk, Harry knew if he wanted he could pull Dobby’s sock out of it and remember the House Elf. But, that was another death he felt the deepest guilt for. Dobby had died trying to save him. Harry wondered to himself more than once if Dobby knew just how much Harry had loved him. 

Growling to himself, frustrated that he was in so much turmoil when he should be grateful and celebrating that they had won. But, as he looked outside, was the cost worth it? It had to be or else many more would have died at Voldemort’s hands. Harry pulled his thoughts back to himself and his surroundings. He felt closed in, almost claustrophobic. Quickly changing and not caring about any damned robes, Harry took up his broom and was out the window in minutes. The only time he felt true peace lately was when he was flying. 

Soaring up higher and higher in the cold clear air Harry felt free, his mind settled and his stomach unknotted. He let his mind clear as he went as high as he dared, then as fast as he wanted to. With no one to tell him to stop or slow down, Harry did exactly what he wanted. He flew over the countryside, not caring which direction he went. He knew he was flying too fast and too reckless, but it was the only time that the pain and the guilt didn’t overwhelm him. 

Harry flew for hours. He got lost once or twice, but easily found his meandering course once again, even though he had no idea where he was going. When dawn broke, Harry wondered where he was and decided to land in a small village he had passed only moments before. 

Landing, Harry saw he was on the outskirts of a bright bustling village. Checking his pockets, Harry pulled a variety of bills out and counted out some muggle euros and a few local bills that he had acquired here and there on more than one flying adventure. Walking to the center of the village he found a quaint coffee shop that he was able to buy a mug of hot chocolate and a fresh hot out of the oven pastry filled with the loveliest clotted cream and fresh strawberries. Sitting there where no one knew him and no one cared about who he was, Harry knew he needed to make a change. He couldn’t move forward, not with all of the unwanted praise and attention he constantly received whenever he tried to do anything outside of the Weasley’s house.

Harry slowly ate his pastry and relished in the flavors. After a while, he even got himself another mug of hot chocolate. There was something peaceful about where he was and Harry almost didn’t want to go back but knew he had to. He had some difficult decisions to make and somehow had to find the motivation within himself to make them. 

Stepping out of the main square of the village where people heading towards the city were waking up and getting their coffees or teas and their breakfasts, Harry was heading back to the one place he didn’t really want to go. Not wasting much time, once he was clear of the village, Harry mounted his broom and flew back to the Burrow. 

Where the night and early morning before he had been able to clear his mind and forget all that he had been going through mentally and emotionally, going back his thoughts were troubled. He knew the course he had in mind, which no one was going to like, but Harry knew it was his life and his decision on how he was going to live it, not anyone else’s.

Landing near the edge of the pond, Harry sat down on a stone bench mulling over those decisions he had made. 

“Mum has been beside herself wondering where you got off to you git.” George smiled, but Harry saw how it didn’t quite reach his eyes. Another death Harry felt guilty for. 

“Hey, George.”

“You a’right Harry?” George moved to sit next to Harry.

Harry looked up and felt his heart constrict. 

“Why don’t you hate me?”

“What are you on about?” George’s furrowed brows almost disappeared under his ginger mop of hair. 

“For…” Harry looked away towards the pond trying to steady the wild beating of his heart. “Everything. For Fred. For the war, just for….” The panic attack started out slow. First Harry’s heart raced faster, his stomach churned and the food he had consumed felt like a lead weight in the pit of his stomach. His body was shaking and he felt his face breaking out in bits of sweat. Harry felt his throat closing up while he was trying to talk. 

“Hey, Harry, come on now.” George laid a hand on Harry’s shoulder and gently squeezed. “If you check out on me, who is going to test all my best gags, ay? Come on, take a deep breath. None of what happened was your fault, Harry. You can’t take on the responsibility for the world. It doesn’t work that way.”

George kept a steady hand on Harry’s back helping him work through the attack.

“I need to leave, George. I need to figure my life out without anyone else trying to tell me how my life should be lived. I need…” Harry watched his hands as he twisted them together. Taking deep breaths he calmed the panic that had risen up inside of him. “I need to know who I am and I can’t do that here.”

“Harry, have you thought about this? You know you have people that love you.”

Harry sat up and looked around the property, not wanting to meet George’s eyes. 

“I know, but I need to find out who I am. For all my life I’ve had nothing but people telling me who and what I am supposed to be.” Harry shoved off the bench and started to pace. The anger he had tried to bury so deep inside of him pushed up to the surface. “The Boy Who Lived, The Savior, Voldemort’s Equal, all this bullshite that didn’t mean one fucking thing. My life has never been my own, George, never and I need to stop listening to people telling me what the fuck to do.”

Harry looked up at the sky and wrapped his arms around his waist and took a few breaths to try to control the unbidden tears that started. They were tears of the deep-seated anger and frustration Harry was feeling. He felt the cold seeping deep into his bones, he had not thought to grab some kind of coat. The jumper he had on over his t-shirt had been warm enough at first, but now he was feeling the cold of Fall. When George stood and walked over to him to wrap his arms around Harry, offering comfort, Harry broke a little and finally just let himself feel everything he had been pushing down for so many years. 

“Let it out, Harry.” George curled his fingers in Harry’s hair with one hand, and his free arm wrapped around Harry’s waist and pulled him in closer letting Harry purge his emotions. The two young men stood together under the ever-increasingly lighting sky and Harry felt cared for and protected for the very first time in his life. Reluctantly he pulled away from George’s embrace wiped his face and spelled George’s shirt clean. 

“If you need to leave it all behind to understand who you are, you do that Harry. I will support you, and know that you have friends.” 

“Thank you, George.”

“Come on then, let’s get you inside and cleaned up.”

Harry smiled, but he knew it wasn’t his same smile. He didn’t have it in him to just be nice and go along with everything anymore. This was where he did something completely and wholly for himself. He would sort his things and only take what was essential. The other stuff, well he would deal with his other stuff later.

“Found him, Mum.” George winked at Harry, who did smile a little brighter this time. “He was out by the pond contemplating the frogs. I suspect he was wondering if he could make one chocolate.” George teased, which made Harry laugh.

“Well, it’s about time young man. Scoot, scoot. Go up and clean up for breakfast.”

“I’m not staying for breakfast, Mrs. Weasley.”

Molly frowned deeply as a stern look crossed her face. George said a bit of quick good luck under his breath and fled the room. 

“What is the meaning of this young man?”

Harry tried to be polite, he really did. He knew telling Molly was going to be difficult, but he hoped it didn’t end in a row.

“I…I can’t stay here anymore, Mrs. Weasley. And I don’t just mean at the Burrow. I need…space away from everything, and, well, everyone. I need to figure out myself or I’m not going to be good for anyone.”

Molly glared at Harry and he knew she was trying to control her temper. Harry, though, would stand his ground.

“Harrison James Potter, you aren’t going anywhere. This is your home, you have friends, you have people who love you, so you are staying here and we will sort this out.”

“No, we won’t. And frankly, Mrs. Weasley you are not my Mum and you cannot tell me how to live my life. I am eighteen and I have a right to leave whenever I want.”

Molly pressed her lips together but sighed in frustration when the teapot steamed and let out its loud screech. Pans on the stove were cooking breakfast, and coffee was also being made as Bill and Charlie were coming that morning to visit and each had grown fond of the dark, bitter brew.

“Sit down Harry and stop this nonsense. I may not be your Mum, but I’ve tried anyway.”

“Yes, I appreciate you opening your home to me, but you can’t treat me like one of your children because I’m not. My parents are gone. My father’s friends, all gone. Everyone that could have been a parent in my life is GONE! And you can’t replace them. No one can. 

“Don’t you understand that I can’t take it anymore. I can’t take the things in the papers, the way everyone fawns over me or hates me in equal measure, the damn children’s books that have nothing! to do with my life.” Harry stalked over to the bookcase and pulled out one of the Harry Potter kids’ books and threw it on the floor angrily. “This, this person was never me. Do you want to know what my life was like? Because if any of you had cared one ounce for me, really cared, you would have known. 

“I lived in a fucking boot cupboard for years. I was abused and worked like a damn slave for Merlin’s sake. And Dumbledore kept making me go back there. Every summer you don’t even know what I had to endure. So don’t tell me that you love me, or care about me, or want to be like my Mum, because if that were true, someone, anyone would have rescued me from that hell.” Harry stood there, chest heaving, eyes burned with moisture, glasses getting filmy and all Harry wanted was to be left alone. He turned and saw the rest of the Weasley’s and Hermione, who had come for a visit, looking at him in shock. He knew they all suspected what his childhood had been like, but he hadn’t said anything, and they had never asked. He learned not to, and not even the bruises and stiff way he walked had ever alerted anyone to help him. 

Not saying anything more, Harry pushed passed everyone and ran up the stairs to his temporary room and opened his trunk. He was quickly sorting the things he wanted to take, and the things he was leaving behind. Before the Horcrux hunt, he had emptied it of all the things he had not needed anymore, like school books, quills, parchment, etc. Mostly he had clothes, a few leisure books, things they had found on their hunt, which he removed and set them aside. 

“Harry?” A quiet voice came from the doorway and Harry’s shoulders slumped. He knew he was going to hurt Ginny and it was one more thing to pile on the guilt. He was sorry for it, but he knew he needed to break things off with her. 

“Ginevra,” Harry’s voice broke as he hung his head.

“What are you doing Harry?” Ginny moved into the room and sat at the end of Harry’s bed. Harry had turned his head to cautiously watch her.

“Gin, I can’t stay.”

“But, why Harry?” Ginny looked at Harry with such love in her eyes that it broke his heart a bit. He moved from where he was and sat next to her on the bed. Harry took her hand and held it.

“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking the last few days and last night I knew I had to leave. I can’t breathe here Gin. I can’t be myself because everyone wants a part of me and always has. I feel…” Harry looked at their combined hands and had a moment of clarity. While he loved Ginny, it wasn’t the kind of love that would last a lifetime. He had come to care for her and in light of everything that went on in the last couple of years she had been a comfort. But, he wasn’t in love with her. A school romance and nothing more. 

“Talk to me, Harry.”

“Ginny, I want you to be absolutely honest with yourself, and with me. This is really important. Can you truly say that what you feel for me is anything more than a really good friend? I love you, but not the way you should be loved.”

Ginny squeezed Harry’s hand and looked at his face for a few long moments. 

“I wanted it to be more. I wanted to be everything you needed and wanted in a girlfriend. And I guess I’ve loved you since before I met you.”

“You loved the idea of me, Gin. I’m not that boy from the books, I never have been. My life is a complicated mess. You are a brilliant Quidditch player, and I want to see you soar. You love it more than I ever really did. It’s a brilliant game, but it isn’t my passion. I think we need to be brutally honest with ourselves and each other. If we stayed together, I know I would hurt you and I don’t ever want to do that. We have to let each other go, Gin.”

Ginny laid her head on Harry’s shoulder and sighed. He knew it wasn’t true love or whatever the hell that meant because it didn’t hurt nearly enough to let Ginny go. If this relationship had meant something deeper, it wouldn’t have been this easy for him to say goodbye.

“I don’t feel like my heart is going to break into a million pieces which means you’re right and I hate that. I didn’t want you to be right. I can’t say it doesn’t hurt, but not like it should. I love you too, Harry.”

Harry gently cupped Ginny’s chin and lifted her face so they were looking at each other. He leaned in and gave her a kiss so sweet that it was the first thing that made him smile a little. 

“You will always be important to me.”

Ginny smiled sadly and held Harry’s face in her hands.

“And you will always be important to me, Harry. Go find yourself. You don’t need anyone’s permission after all you’ve been through.”

Harry nodded and just like that a relationship he had cherished so deeply just a few months prior was ended. Ginny left and he knew she was going to hurt for a while, but he had a feeling she would bounce back just fine.

Finishing his packing, Harry left his robes behind him. Where he planned to go they wouldn’t exactly be useful or fashionable. He shrunk the trunk enough that it could fit in the pocket of his trousers. On the bed were gifts for the upcoming Christmas season for all of them that he had been picking up here and there whenever he did venture out to Diagon Alley, or even Magical London. He wasn’t going to say any goodbyes, letters for Ron and Hermione were on the bed along with the gifts. When he turned to look back outside, the sky was clear, if not cold from the late fall air. He had a moment as he looked back and said goodbye to a life that had brought him unequal parts joy and pain. He lost more than anyone should have, but as Harry grabbed his broom after shrugging into a warm coat, he turned his eyes towards the future and hoped he found something better, or at least he hoped he found himself, whoever that was.