Post-traumatic stress syndrome. How and when will it manifest? How and when can it be dealt with?
He didn't know what he was feeling. He didn't know he was feeling. He knew only that he was standing in the drawing room of dark, dreary, 12 Grimmauld Place. Just standing in the dark. Just staring at the worn, dusty drapes that stood as sentinels of gloom.
On the other side of these heavy shrouds, the world moved on. A world of sunshine. A world of people. People who shared smiles. Who shared hellos. People with a purpose
People who had no idea how much their lives were changed.
But there was a man who knew. A man? A boy? He felt like a boy today. A forgotten boy locked in an over-large cupboard because no one had a use for him anymore.
Only days ago, at Fred's funeral, Mrs. Weasley had embraced him and said he was welcome anytime. But Harry knew they were just words. Something one said to fill awkward conversations. He couldn't intrude on them. They were grieving. They had other things to deal with than a lonely outsider.
Ron and Hermione left for Australia to find her parents just yesterday. They had each other. They didn't need him.
Even Ginny seemed distant. Was he just a school crush? She had just lost her brother. She needed to grieve without him around.
He had no right to intrude, to impose.
Impose is all he could do. He had nothing left to do for anyone. He had no one to protect anymore. No one left to save. Nothing to drive him on. His purpose was over. Who needs him? Who would want him?
Off in the distance of his murky brain, he heard a brief click, a rustle as someone opened the door to the room. The drapes pulled themselves opened, blinding Harry as he turned, intending to yell at Kreature to close them again.
"Just what I feared." Molly said softly.
"What?" Harry coughed. His voice croaked, dry from disuse. His eyes watered at the sudden brightness.
"Why are you in here all by yourself?" Her tone soft, like a blanket on a chilly day.
"I…I didn't…" He stammered, looking everywhere but at the red-headed woman.
"You didn't what? Want to impose?" How could a woman sound so kind, so calm and still sound so exasperated?
"I, uh, yeah." The door frame was easier to talk to.
Harry looked into Molly's face. "Huh?
Her face set in a stern scowl. She moved towards the door and called down. "Kreature, We're ready for that tea now." She turned back to Harry, pointed to the sofa. "Sit."
It may have been his house, but he knew to never cross Mrs. Weasley. He sat. She drew up a chair to face him. Before he could frame any words, there was a POP and his house-elf laid a tea tray down onto a small table that had appeared between them. With a bow, he disappeared again.
"I had been told you haven't eaten anything in over two days. Is that right?" Her tone was still stern, but barely loud enough to hear.
"I…I haven't been hungry." He admitted. And he wasn't. He didn't want to be. Hunger meant real life. He wasn't ready for real life.
His head snapped up, not expecting such language from her. "Pardon?"
She sat back, pleased at his reaction. "You heard me." She reached over and poured their cups, adding just the right amount of sugar that Harry liked, then touched the covered plate, the vaporized dome revealed piles of small sandwiches. She chose two and placed them on the saucer under his cup. "Prove to me that you're not hungry."
He took a sip of tea and then a tentative bite of an egg sandwich. Without realizing it, his plate had been reloaded several times before he stopped. A lightness had lifted his mind as his stomach filled.
All that time, Molly sat and nodded. She didn't eat. She didn't talk. She just sipped her tea while she refilled his cup and plate as they emptied. When he stopped and looked amazed at the empty tray, she smiled and took the saucer and cup out of his hands. "There. How're you feeling? Hungry?" She said smugly.
"No ma'am. Thanks." Indeed, he wasn't hungry. He was feeling. And it didn't hurt. He was then made aware of a question that needed asking, "Why are you here?"
"Kreature came by today, about you." She answered casually as she tidied everything back onto the tray.
"Yes, you. He was worried. Master is not eating. Master is not sleeping. Is Master sick?" She looked closely into his face. "Are you?"
"No, no, I'm fi…" His voice trailed off when he caught sight of the white words tattooed on the back of his hand. 'I must not tell lies.' "Not sick, actually…" He paused, "Just, just…"
"Alone?" Molly's soft word hit him as hard as a bludger.
"Yeah. Maybe that's it." He admitted. How can one word mean so much?
"There is a cure for that, you know." She smiled at him but didn't go any further.
"A cure?" He asked stupidly.
"Yes, come home."
"I…I couldn't." Harry jumped off the sofa and started pacing.
"Why not?" She asked with an indulgent laugh.
"I…I don't want to intr…"
"Are we back to that again?" Molly stood and held his arm, gently forcing him to stop and look at her. "If you were an imposition, would I be here?"
No, Ma'am. Just…just. Well, it's time for your family now, isn't it?" Her gentle, soft voice was shaking him. Where's the powerhouse that could vanquish even Bellatrix? It was easier to face the red-headed fury of Mrs. Weasley than this understanding, calm woman.
Then he saw a fire build up in her eyes. "Harry James Potter! You may not have red hair, but you are still one of my own! Now, are you going to pack up and come home with me?" Yep. Right there, the Molly Weasley that he knew!
"If you want me, ok." He backed away, afraid she would take back the offer.
"Fine. Kreature has packed a bag. Now get your jacket on and let's go. I have dinner to cook." She bent to pick up her handbag and then pushed Harry out the door.
Ginny had just finished washing the dishes and was drying her hands when she heard the whoosh of the fireplace. She turned in time to see her mother step out, followed by Harry. She dropped her towel to the floor as she rushed past her mother and into Harry's arms.
"It's about bloody time!" She whispered fiercely in his ear.
"Go on, take him out to get some air." Said Molly as she slid her handbag onto a chair.
Without a glance back at her mother, Ginny dragged Harry out into the garden. "What took you so long?" She asked, looking as fierce as her mother.
Harry dragged in a long breath, "I… I don't know." And that was the truth. He didn't know. How could he have forgotten that his purpose was standing right in front of him, his place in the world was right in this very garden?