Harry stood on the beach scrunching the sand with his toes, watching and listening to the sound of the waves crashing onto the shore. He had never been more relaxed in his life than he was now. Up until this moment his whole life had seemed to been one struggle after another. At this time of year he would normally be staring out of the Dursleys spare bedroom window, watching the residents of Privet Drive go about their humdrum lives. Thankfully that part of his life was over for good. Although thinking about it, maybe he should stop by and tell them the war was over. Then again maybe he wouldn't bother, and they could just sweat watching the news for any freakiness, and then panic about it.
It had been three weeks since he and Ginny had left St Mungo's, and started their honeymoon on their secret Caribbean island. Almost every minute had been perfect. He still wasn't exactly sure where the island was, but he thought having made a few astrological calculations with Ginny one night, that they were somewhere between Jamaica and Cuba. They could have tried to be more accurate, but half way through they had got distracted by each other. They'd both learnt that night in the clearest way possible that sand and romance didn't mix. Harry smiled at the memory, it was amazing how easy and wonderful it was to be alone with Ginny. He was certain that Ron and Hermione would have half killed each other by now, as there was very little to keep them occupied, but themselves.
They had arrived with just a few clothes, two Firebolts, and a large quantity of gillyweed. Winky had insisted on accompanying them, and considering the state of the only large bungalow on the island they were very grateful that she had. It looked as though no one had visited the deserted island in years. Thankfully it had only taken the little Elf half a day to clean it to a habitable standard. She had even managed to create a meal for them when they had arrived back from exploring the whole island, and since then they hadn't seen her once. They knew she was still around as meals magically appeared when they got hungry, and drinks appeared when they got thirsty. Harry could only assume that she was being a 'proper house elf'.
Harry's thoughts were interrupted when the scar on his arm started to give him a warm glow that made his spine shiver. A smile formed on his face, someone was waking up finally, but instead of going back to the bungalow he continued looking out to sea at a flock of seagulls that were ducking and diving into the water, just beyond the coral reef. No doubt they were feeding on one of the many shoals of fish that they had seen on their numerous diving trips, using the gillyweed. A small pair of hands suddenly wrapped themselves round his chest from behind, and gave him a tight squeeze.
"Morning sleepy head," Harry said turning around within Ginny's grasp, and holding her in return.
"You heard me coming," she complained with a small pout.
"With all the noise from the waves, and the gulls I couldn't hear a thing, but I did feel you wake up," Harry replied.
"Oh our curse scar, I still haven't got used to that, it's going to be difficult getting away with anything."
"I know, somehow we're going to have to find a way to live with it."
"I like knowing how you feel, though." Harry smiled as he brushed back the usual errant lock of hair that had fallen across her face.
"So do I, but there's going to come a time when it might be a problem."
"We'll just take it one day at a time then," Ginny said kissing him, "and if it becomes a problem then maybe we can block each other out with Occlumency. Anyway it's a minor problem to deal with compared to what we might have to deal with when we get home."
"Yes," Harry said his mood darkening.
"Things might have quietened down after all it's been over a month since Tom died," Ginny had already had a minor brush with Harry's fame, and had found it weird and obtrusive.
"No such luck our absence will have probably have made it worse. They're probably all sorts of rumours by now, saying that we've been kidnapped or murdered. We could always stay here, and pretend the rest of the World doesn't exist."
"Sounds wonderful, but it's only putting of the inevitable, besides we've got the Quidditch World Cup to go to. We can't miss that."
"I suppose not, so we're really going back today. The Honeymoon is over."
"We can come back any time we like Harry, it's a large four bedroom bungalow, and even if Hermione and my idiot brother are here, it shouldn't be a problem."
"I think we might have to wear more clothing if they're here as well, but it just might keep me sane knowing that we can escape back here whenever we want." Harry took a deep breath of sea air, closed his eyes and tried to fix the memory of this moment in his mind. Ginny sensing his mood laid her head on his chest, and listened to his heart beating.
The first two weeks had not been as pleasant as they might have been, after a couple of days nightmares had plagued them both. Harry guessed that they had relaxed sufficiently to allow their subconscious to take over at night. When one suffered a nightmare the other would be woken up, thanks to their joint scar that had linked both their emotions. This allowed them to comfort the other, letting each of them know that they were there for the other, and not alone. The intensity and regularity of these nightmares eased over the following days. That wasn't to say that they didn't still suffer from bad dreams occasional, but not as often as they had at first.
"Come on Gin let's get some breakfast, and then we can pack and leave this wretched paradise, it can't be good for us all this pleasure and happiness," Harry said eventually grinning at her. They walked back to the bungalow where the elusive Winky had laid out the usual selection of toast, fruit, and tea that they had taken to eating in the mornings sitting on the veranda overlooking the beach they had just walked from.
"Another thing I'm going to miss when we return home," Ginny said looking out at the view.
"It's a whole different World isn't it, real but not quite. If you see what I mean?" Harry said.
"Oh I do, it's like we're rich and famous or something. Oh wait a mo we are!" Ginny said laughing. Harry joined in nobody made him as happy or laugh in quite the same way as Ginny did.
"Winky I know you're somewhere near it's time to show yourself." The little Elf popped into view right beside them, and gave a small curtsey.
"Has everything been satisfactory for Master and Mistress Potter, and can Winky get them anything else?"
"Winky I can say without question that this has been the best holiday I have had ever, or probably ever while have," Harry said refraining from adding that it was the first and only holiday he had ever been on. The Elf beamed at the praise, and when she swayed as though she was about to pass out, Harry thought he might have over done it."
"Are you ok Winky?"
"Yes Mistress I is not used to the heat that is all."
"Then I guess it really is time to return to the vagaries of a British summer, and Dobby of course," Harry said.
"Yes Master it will be good to see both of them again, Winky will never ever complain about being cold or wet, ever again."
"Ok Winky we'll get our things, and then we can take the Portkey back."
"No need Master, Winky has already done it" she clicked her fingers and two cases appeared beside them along with their brooms. Ginny though couldn't accept that everything had been packed, and proceeded to search the whole bungalow, even the rooms that they had never been in, just in case as she put it. Harry had seen this routine many times before at the Burrow. It always happened just before they were all meant to catch the Hogwarts Express. Winky had looked shocked at Ginny's behaviour, and Harry had to try and explain that it wasn't an insult to her abilities.
"Happy now?" Harry asked with a neutral face when Ginny finally sat back down again.
"Yes thanks, and there's no reason to be cranky."
"I'm not cranky."
"Yes you are. I can feel it."
"Alright I'm a little annoyed, but you upset Winky, and quit using the curse scar to know what I'm feeling," but Ginny just smiled right back at him.
"Mistress should trust Winky to do her work right." she said forcefully.
"I'm sorry Winky, but if I don't check, then I worry I might be leaving something behind, its just who I am."
"She's telling the truth Winky. She was worried."
"Now who's using the curse scar," Ginny retorted.
"Not that we couldn't replace anything if we did leave something behind," Harry continued. "Or pick it up next time we're here."
"I wasn't brought up to waste money Harry, so get use to it."
"Ok fine. I won't mention it again, but you should let me be annoyed at you, without you knowing about it."
"You what?" Harry thought about what he had just said, and realised it didn't make much sense.
"I should be allowed to be annoyed at you, without you knowing that I'm annoyed at you. If I want you to know I'm annoyed at you I'll say so. Instead of you feeling the annoyance I'm feeling. Is that any clearer?"
"No, you're not making any sense at all, and I'm finding this whole conversation more than a little annoying."
"Well I know what I mean, even if you don't."
"I look forward to a lifetime of similar stimulating conversation," Ginny said shaking her head in disbelief.
"Come on then I guess we'd better get back, or Ron or Hermione might think I've fed you to that shark we saw last week." Harry said remembering the brief panic he had felt, when they had watched it slowly swim over to them check them out, and then turned away back out into the deep.
"Gave you quite the fright didn't it," Ginny said with a cheeky grin.
"Only because it was eyeing you up, and I was between you and it."
"My hero saves me again." Ginny then put the back of her hand to her forehead and pretended to swoon.
"Now I know it's time to get back, that way you can take the mickey out of Ron instead of me," Harry said trying to look affronted and failing. Harry tapped the reusable Portkey with his wand making it glow a light blue, and the three of them grabbed hold. The blue light disappeared, and Harry felt the familiar tug behind his navel jerking him forward, his feet leaving the ground as he was swept away in a rush of wind.
He landed on his feet swaying to keep his balance, until Ginny bumped into him knocking him over on his back with Ginny lying on top of him. Harry gave a quick look round relieved to see that they were once more in the Hollows entrance hall. He still had a fear of Portkeys after the Tri-Wizard Tournament, never quite believing that he would arrive at where he was meant to. Ginny started to move trying to get up, but Harry wrapped his arms around her, pinning her to him.
"I swear you do that on purpose," he said to the grinning face inches away from his own. "You did the same thing on the way out."
"It's just my way to make sure that the all conquering, and mighty Harry Potter keeps his feet on the ground."
"I was doing just that, until you knocked me off them."
"Well any excuse to have you at my mercy."
"Is that what you think? I know all your ticklish spots now, Mrs Potter, do you want to surrender now, or should I make you suffer first?"
"I know your spots as well, Mr Potter, so don't be so cocky."
"I refuse to admit that I'm ticklish in any way what so ever," and Harry gritted his teeth and waited for the onslaught. It never came though.
"You two are still talking to each other then?" Harry looked up from his position on the floor and saw Ron's face peering down at him from the top landing.
"Of course we're still talking to each other. We have serious, and in depth conversations about a lot of things," Harry answered.
"Yea I heard," Ron answered as he began to walk down the stairs.
"So in depth, the last one was indecipherable," Ginny said climbing off Harry.
"Oh, one of those. I have those with Hermione all the time. Just nod your head a lot, and say yes or no when you can get a word in, works most of the time," Ron said.
"Where is she?" Harry asked now lifting himself up off the floor.
"She's having a lie down, she's not been sleeping very well," the smile left Ron's face. "She's been suffering from nightmares."
"Oh I'm sorry," Ginny said, "Is it anything in particular."
"Those two death eaters she killed in Hogsmeade, I think. She doesn't want to talk to me about it. Says she'll get over it, and I'm not to worry. I think she's wrong, but you try telling her that. Hermione doesn't do being wrong." Harry's good mood evaporated, for years Hermione had tried to get him to talk about it, whatever that was at the time. He'd always been difficult, and sometimes plain rude, and here she was acting just like him.
"Perhaps I better have a word with her when she wakes up," Harry said. "I've been there, and done the whole nightmare thing."
"So have I Harry," Ginny said, "and I'm a girl. I'll talk to her now."
"If she starts saying she's fine, just tell her that's my line, and for your information you're not a girl. You're all woman," Harry said as Ginny swayed up the stairs. She beamed back down at him, and gave him a wink, before disappearing round the corner.
"Could you not say things like that when I'm in earshot?" Ron said grimacing.
"Oh lighten up Ron. So what have you been up to while we've been away?"
"Not much, flying my broom, bewitching quaffles, so I can practise saving them. I've been trying to ignore Hermione's suggestions that I should be reading this years text books, before we return to Hogwarts. That sort of thing, still now you're back things should liven up. So what did you get up to on the Island, was there anything to do?" They were now walking towards the study, and Harry turned and gave Ron a look, but he didn't see it.
"Do you really want me to answer that?" Ron's face suddenly went a bright shade of crimson. "I thought not." They entered the study in silence, Ron obviously deciding not to risk opening his mouth. Harry opened the door and got a shock. His desk, the two armchairs, and the far corner of the room were buried under thousands of letters and parcels. Without even realising it his jaw dropped in astonishment, much to Ron's amusement.
"Oh yea, I forgot to tell you, you had a little post while you were away."
"A little, there must be thousands of letters here," Harry said.
"Well Hermione figures tens of thousands. Poor old Dobby has been spending half his day making sure they're safe."
"Who are they from?" Harry asked rather stupidly.
"Anybody and everybody, that lot in the corner are addressed to Ginny. You don't think after getting rid of Riddle people weren't going to show their appreciation." Ron looked at Harry's face. "You weren't expecting this at all were you? Honestly Harry sometimes I wonder if you're on the same planet, as the rest of us."
"But… what on earth," words seemed to fail him. "What about you and Hermione are you getting any post like this?"
"Well we didn't get any at first, but once the papers couldn't find anything new to write about you and Ginny, they started writing about us, Neville and Luna. The next day the owls just wouldn't stop coming for both of us, it was total mayhem.
"Have you opened any of them?" Harry looked around the study wondering where he was going to start, or even if he was going to bother.
"I've opened all mine, and I think Hermione's opened hers, mind you we've only received a few thousand each, compared to your tens of thousands. Quite a few of mine had galleons in them, as well as pictures of witches in various states of undress. I'm up to three marriage proposals, so far." He said with one of the widest grins Harry had ever seen on his face.
"You're kidding me?"
"Nope straight up. You should have seen Hermione's face when I showed them to her." Harry could well imagine what it had looked like.
"I bet she shook her head, and went tut, tut?"
"She was a little more vocal than that, especial when she saw two of the pictures that were enclosed."
"I assume they weren't wearing much?" Harry asked.
"The strumpets weren't wearing anything at all," the voice in the door way said, "and I burnt the pictures, so don't ask to see them."
"Hermione, it's great to see you, how are you feeling?" Harry asked.
"I'm fine Harry." Her eyes looked tired, but otherwise Harry thought she was ok. He went towards her, and gave her a hug like the old friends they were.
"You're not alone in having nightmares Hermione. Next time wake Ron up, and talk to him. You'd do that wouldn't you?" Harry said looking at Ron.
"Of course I would," Ron replied.
"It helped Ginny and me. It should do the same for you. The mind thinks strange things in the dark at three in the morning, if you're on your own."
"Make sure you have a good hex ready to wake my brother up with though, because that's the only way you'll be able to manage it," Ginny added.
"I don't need a hex. There are other more direct ways that have worked in the pass," she answered and Harry saw Ron wince.
"I'm not sure I want to know," Harry said as he began to idly pick through the nearest stack of letters. "Your letters are over there in the corner Ginny, and if you get any marriage proposals remember it's too late, you're mine." Ginny followed Harry's pointing hand to the massive pile in the corner.
"Do you think that's likely?" she asked.
"Well Ron already has three. What about you Hermione any proposals?" Hermione didn't answer straight away, and Harry thought he saw her face turn slightly pink.
"Come on you can tell us, we're all friends here," Harry said.
"Eight," she muttered, "but six of those are from wizards who must be over the age of seventy." Her disapproval was evident to them all.
"I see a competition in the making," Ginny said.
"Don't be daft Ginny. Harry's going to win hands down. He'll probably end up with a thousand," Ron said. "You've been out of sight for over a month, and the country has gone mad about you two. Mum can't go shopping without a dozen people asking about both of you, and the twins say half the people that come in the store pester them for news. Mind you it sounds as though very few of them leave without being made to buy something." Harry smiled at least someone was profiting from all this nonsense.
"It's out of my control, so I won't worry about it." Harry said as he slit open a letter, which immediately dropped ten golden galleons onto his lap. "Where did they come from, the letter was completely flat?"
"Magic Harry, remember you're a Wizard," Hermione said giving him an exasperated look. Harry quickly read the letter, from a Dimple Pellish.
"He says thanks for ridding the World of you-know-who, and please accept this small donation on behalf of his family, to do with whatever I like. I can't take this. I'll have to send it back." He looked at the letter again, but there was no return address.
"You can't do that Harry in the Wizarding World returning a gift is a grave insult. Remember Percy and his Christmas present," Hermione said. Harry looked at the galleons and at all the post littering the room. What if they all had ten galleons in them?
"I didn't fight Voldemort for money!"
"Of course you didn't, but you can't send the money back either. He wants you to do whatever you like with it Harry so do that. I'm going to use what I've been given to promote Elf rights. What you do with yours is up to you."
Harry nodded and opened up another letter. This one though had no money, but a request that he come and eliminate a werewolf, which was apparently terrorising the writer's local area. Harry drew his wand, and incinerated it in disgust. Is this what people were going to expect from him now. He had only been back a few minutes, and he already wanted to return to his Island paradise. A warm hand then slipped into his, and the disgust he had been feeling ebbed away.
"Thanks I needed that," he said to Ginny. He was just about to kiss her when there was a loud pop, and Dobby appeared right next to the desk. In his excitement several of the piles of letters collapsed onto the floor, half burying him. He seemed totally unconcerned, and grabbed onto Harry's leg.
"My great friend Harry Potter has returned home. Dobby is so glad to see you looking so well, and the wonderful Mistress Potter is looking more beautiful than ever." He let go of Harry's legs and clung onto Ginny's instead, nearly toppling her over, as she was taken by surprise. Fortunately Harry was still holding her hand and prevented it.
"It's good to see you again Dobby, next time you must come with us, and we'll take you diving among the reefs," Harry said genuinely pleased to see him.
"Oh Dobby would love to, but that would not be proper. I work for the great Harry Potter."
"Dobby when you come I would insist that you take time out, and learn what a holiday is all about. This was my first, and I think you would benefit from it."
"That's right," Hermione said, "don't forget you're a free Elf, and a holiday is a part of being free." Dobby looked unconvinced at this statement, and Harry thought the biggest obstacle to the ending of Elf slavery, were the Elves themselves, and not the wizarding community. Hermione was going to have an up hill struggle, if she couldn't persuade even Dobby to take a holiday.
"Dobby will think about it, but I can't be on holiday for too long. I likes to work, and as a free house elf it is my right to work, if I want to." He said staring hard at Hermione, daring her to disagree. "Now I must go, and make the treacle tart for dinner," and with a pop he vanished.
"They're strange little creatures, aren't they?" Ron said.
"They just don't understand what they want, that's all," Hermione snapped.
"You can't have it both ways Hermione," Harry said. "They're free, and can do what they want, but you telling them what they should do, is taking their freedom away."
"I know, I know but it's so frustrating when they won't see what is best for them."
"I think you're going to have to take a very long term view on Elf rights. One or two life times, at least," Ginny said as she ripped open a letter, from her pile, causing two galleons to fall to the floor, "Cool." Harry smiled at her expression of joy. She was like a small child opening Christmas presents.
The novelty though had worn off after an hour and a couple of hundred letters, which didn't even leave a dent in the mountain of post remaining. The pile of galleons was growing and Harry still hadn't decided what he was going to do with it. St Mungo's had more money than it knew what to do with it, thanks to the confiscation of known Death Eater's wealth. It was the next letter he opened though that made up his mind.
Dear Mr Potter.
My brother and I would like to thank you for killing you-know-who. Our parents were killed by him just over a year ago. Please find enclosed our pocket money. It's not much I know, but the Orphanage has very little money to give us, but I hope it will be enough for you to buy an ice cream.
Melissa and Alan Gallien.
PS. I hope you like ice cream.
Harry looked at the coins in his hand that had been in the envelope. They barely added up to half a galleon in total, but the gift affected him more than he would like to admit. There were two more people out there that had become orphans at the hands of Voldemort, and when it all came down to it, the whole mess started because Voldemort had been brought up without receiving, or understanding what it meant to be loved.
"What's the time?" Harry asked he had yet to change his watch back to British time, and the time difference had confused his body clock.
"Ten to five," Ron replied adding three more coins to Harry's pile of coins, and then writing down how much had been sent on the letter, before placing it in one of several boxes. After opening a couple of dozen letters they had quickly fallen into certain types. The vast bulk had been those congratulating and thanking him, without money or presents. Then there were those with money, or a small present. A small minority, but a disturbingly high number to Harry, consisted of indecent proposals, marriage proposals, and requests to save them from some sort of evil, and of course anonymous death threats. Hermione had insisted that a filing system should be set up, just in case in the future they needed to look up who had sent what to whom, especially the death threats.
"Right it's not too late then," Harry said waving the letter at Ginny so she could read it. "I'm just going to have a word with Dobby and Winky, and then I'm going to visit both of them. You're all welcome to come along," he said indicating the letter. Ten minutes later the four of them apparated away from the house overloaded with ice cream, and all the galleons that Harry had recovered in the last hour.