The nightmares don’t end after the war.
Because his hands jitter unless they are aiming a wand at someone, and his body tenses whenever he is not in a duel, he joins the Hit-Wizards right out of Hogwarts.
The Aurors don’t scratch the itch quite right.
He returns home just before dawn, blood splattered robes concealing a worn body littered with bruises. He falls into bed without changing, and rises several hours later to return to work. He has lost weight, has not seen his friends in weeks, and cannot remember the last thing he did that did not involve death.
He has never smiled more.
He spends his days in the corner of dimly light parlors, dusky bars frequented by all types of unsavories. He slips poisons into cocktails and knives into backs and he has never felt more alive.
It is state-sanctioned murder.
It is his salvation.
The papers describe him as a hero, the boy bred to be the wizarding world’s avenging angel. He signs autographs and shakes hands and pretends he does his job for the good of the people. He marches criminals to their end in front of flashing bulbs, features set in a determined stare.
He has never had to fight so hard to hold back a smile.
As the days go on and his body count racks up, as his name becomes something to be feared, a threat whispered in the dead of night, he falls farther and farther into the clamor of his mind. Most days he cannot hear over the screeching din that beats a merciless racket inside his skull. He thinks that maybe he has finally tipped, gone over the edge that was his remaining sanity.
He checks himself into a mental ward.
It is there he meets his angel, a blonde haired bombshell clad in white healer robes. Through his medicated haze he asks her if it hurt when she fell from heaven. She asks if it hurt when he fell from sanity.
He thinks he might be in love.
As the days whirl by he grows better. The din fades, and the racket becomes a dull thud. His angel is ever present, and he likes to think that he is not imagining the smiles sent his direction. The day he is released, he asks her for a date.
She says yes.
One date turns to two, turns to five, turns to favorite meeting places and meeting her parents, shared apartments close to an apparition point but not too far from that darling tea shop down the road. He says ‘I love you’ and means it, and believes her when she says the same.
He calls her salvation. She calls him gratuitous. He doesn’t mind.
Their wedding is in the spring, and truthfully he wouldn’t be able to tell how nice it was. All he can remember is her in white, like the day they met, except this time she is pledging to love him for all her days. He has trouble believing this is not an elaborate dream brought about by a lack of sleep. He pinches himself. Hard.
He is not dreaming.
He frames the picture of them from the paper the next morning. When she asks why he chose that one over all the professional ones they had done, he does not answer. He cannot find the words to express that this is the first picture in so long that has him looking genuinely, candidly happy. Instead he tells her he likes the way she is the dominant force in the photograph. He feels less guilty for lying when she smiles.
He retires from the Hit-Wizards with much fanfare. He is awarded (another) Order of Merlin, despite his spirited protests. The ceremony does give him a chance to espy his wife in a particularly fetching red dress, however, so perhaps he doesn’t really mind.
Instead, he takes up a life of politics. He finds that arguing with old men about cauldron bottom thickness in the Wizengamot is perhaps not his ideal career path, but he has found his salvation. He does not need to be a heralder of death to find peace.
When they find themselves parents of a squealing little boy seasons later, he weeps. He is alarmed at first, before he remembers that once upon a time his eyes were used for more than reading legislature or espionage.
He has a wonderful wife, and a perfect son. He appreciates his job, and the clamor in his head is only annoying on the worst of days. His life is supposed to be happy. He had thought that finally, after so long, he would have a happy ending.
Looking back on it, Harry really ought to have known better.