A week after their wedding, Harry and Ginny returned to Grimmauld Place, looking a bit tanner and a lot happier. After notifying the family they were back, Harry levitated their luggage up to their room while Ginny dropped onto the sofa in the drawing room, lying down and sighed. They'd been cocooned in their own private world and she'd been sorry to see it end. She looked around amazed, again, at the changes that had been made. She loved this room. Something about it seemed extra homey to her.
"Ginny?" she heard Harry call.
"In here, Love!"
She smiled at his approaching footsteps. A shadow fell over her face and she looked up into a pair of dancing green eyes. She loved his eyes; they were so expressive. A familiar thrill went through her as he leaned over and gave her an upside down kiss.
"Hey," Harry said softly, once they'd parted.
"Hey, yourself," Ginny countered. "Tired?"
A devilish light twinkled in Ginny's brown eyes. Mischief twisted the smile she wore as she grabbed the front of Harry's shirt and pulled him around to face her, all the while not breaking eye contact.
"Good," she said softly and pulled him down to the sofa with her.
An instant later, they were sharing a much more passionate kiss. As their desires grew, Harry rolled them—and landed on the floor with Ginny on top of him. The two broke apart long enough to laugh but their impromptu position switch did nothing to kill the mood. Eventually, the room became the first room to be christened in the manner all newlyweds do.
"Hey," Harry suddenly said sometime later, patting Ginny's thigh. "Let's go for a walk."
Ginny raised her head from its resting place on Harry's chest and looked down at him from her perch above him. She couldn't help the smile that broke out. It wasn't the idea of going for a walk but more the enthusiasm, giddiness and peacefulness she could see in Harry's eyes. Before, there were only times when it seemed his brilliant green eyes glowed but now, since they had declared their love for one another, his eyes constantly radiated their light.
"So what do you say? Up for a walk? There's a park not far from here."
Unable to deny him anything at the moment, she said, "Sure."
And so, after getting cleaned up, the two wandered their way over to the park. Arm in arm, they walked the paved paths bypassing a sand pit and some play equipment. The two stopped and watched the kids happily playing, yelling in delight at the top of their lungs. Then something happened that hadn't happened in some time. The shouts changed from happiness to horror and he began to tremble.
Feeling Harry tense, Ginny glanced up, noticed his unfocused gaze and immediately cupped his face, giving him a lingering kiss.
"It's okay, Harry," she whispered. "You're okay. It's all over. Look at me, Harry."
Finally, his gaze cleared and Ginny sighed in relief, smiling in an effort to cover how worried she'd been.
"Sorry," Harry rasped. "It just hit me out of the blue. That hasn't happened in so long."
"There's no reason to be sorry, Harry. We were warned you may have periodic flashbacks, remember? They may get few and far between but you may have them for a long time. Don't worry. It's nothing to be ashamed of. War isn't pretty."
"Yeah, I know," he said but he couldn't help feeling a little embarrassed.
Looking around, he spotted the tree he used to sit under to drink away his cares. Taking Ginny's hand, he led her to it. For a long time he just stood there, staring at the patch of earth at the tree's base. When he spoke next, it was almost a whisper.
"This is where Ron found me. I was sitting here with my whiskey bottle and watching the kids play. I don't think I was thinking of much by that time. I do remember being very annoyed by Ron's appearance. I didn't care about anything anymore. I was so numb and I enjoyed it. I didn't want to feel anything again."
Ginny reached up and lovingly thumbed the tears from Harry's cheeks, taking him by surprise as he'd been unaware of their presence. Her own eyes swam with tears she refused to shed. Tears gone from his face, she continued to caress him as he continued to speak.
"I was in such a bad place then. I don't think I've ever said how much I'm grateful to you and your family. Though I hated you, Bill and Charlie at the time, you three helped me face everything. You stood by me and were there when I needed you."
"It's what families do."
Harry smiled sadly. "Yeah, I know that now. I'm just sorry I put everyone through all that."
"It's the past, Harry. As long as we don't let it dictate our actions."
Harry wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her against him, kissing the top of her head. He stood in place, inhaling her comforting scent for a few minutes before another idea struck him. Glancing in the direction of the business district, he knew what else he needed to do.
"Come on. There's someone I need to talk to."
Puzzled, Ginny followed him out of the park, passed some houses and into the business area. Deja vu settled over her as they walked by the pub she and her brothers had found Harry sitting in after the incident at Harry's birthday party. He must have felt it too as he slowed and glanced at the pub front and then back at her. He gave her a smile and squeezed her hand as they continued to walk.
Not far from the pub, Harry suddenly jerked to a stop. Needing to gather his courage, he pulled her into a hug and kiss. It did the trick. Pushing open the door, the two went inside, a bell heralding their entrance.
Harry's attention was fixed on the man behind the counter. Luckily, it was the same one as before. The man looked up at the bell, glanced at the two in his doorway. He started to look away but did a double take. Could it be? He looks a lot like the other boy but this one seems more relaxed, not as haunted. He decided to take a shot.
"Haven't seen you in a while," Gerry said. "It's good to know you're still around. I was worried about you."
Harry led Ginny over to the counter.
"Sorry. I disappeared for a while." Harry sheepishly smiled. "I was getting some sense knocked into me." Harry hugged Ginny close.
"You certainly look better than the last time I saw you," Gerry said, nodding. To Ginny, he said, "Good for you."
"Ginny, this is-," Harry stopped and looked at Gerry, embarrassed that he didn't remember the guy's name.
"Gerry's the name," the proprietor said, "like it says outside."
"I thought it was but I didn't want to assume," Harry commented. "Anyway, this is my wife, Ginny."
Gerry's eyebrows shot up at that. "A little young, aren't you?"
Ginny shrugged. "Maybe but Harry and I have been through a lot together and it's only solidified our feelings for each other."
When Harry smiled and looked to the girl, Gerry could see it in the boy's countenance. There was definitely something special and long-lasting between them.
"Well, congratulations. Forgive me for not offering any champagne."
Harry turned back to the older man, chuckled. "Oh, no worries. That's not why we're here. I've been clean for a little while now and have no intention of going back to it."
"Well, that's certainly good to hear. I hated the thought of someone as young as you being a slave to this stuff."
"Why do you sell it?" Ginny asked, genuinely curious.
"Because, for the most part, people drink responsibly."
"I just wanted to thank you," Harry cut in.
"Thank me? For what?"
"For caring about me. I didn't realize it at the time but, after having thought back over that bit of time, I've come to realize that you did. You may have let me have the whiskey but you made sure I came back to you and only you. I realized you did that so you could keep an eye on me. So, thank you."
The man waved away Harry's words. "No big deal. I'm just glad to see you've got your life back in order. So, where are you living now?"
"Over by the park but we won't be there very long. We've got one final year at our boarding school which starts the first of September."
"Oh. Well, don't be a stranger. I'd like to see you from time to time if that's okay."
Harry and Ginny both smiled. "We'd like that."
As the two turned to go, Gerry called out. "Hey, wait a minute. I think I might just have something for you, as a wedding gift."
Gerry disappeared into the back of the store. Harry and Ginny looked at each other and shrugged. A few minutes later the man returned with what seemed to be some kind of wine bottles, one in each hand. These were green with fancy labels and, once Gerry placed them on the counter, Harry could see that had a screw cap. Gerry opened one, found some plastic cups and poured some into three of them.
"Oh, don't worry," Gerry said with a laugh upon seeing their faces. "It's just white grape juice with some carbonation."
Harry picked up the cold, unopened bottle and read the label. Sparkling white grape juice, it read, one hundred percent juice. He showed the bottle to Ginny before replacing it on the counter.
Gerry handed out the cups and then rose his in a toast. "To a long and happy life."
The three tapped cups and drank. Ginny's eyes rounded as the cold, bubbly liquid hit her tongue. She downed her drink.
"That's pretty good!"
"Thanks," Harry said to Gerry.
"My pleasure. Here take both of these," Gerry grinned as he pushed the bottles to the couple.
"I couldn't. I never paid you for the other stuff and, unfortunately, I don't have any money on me right now."
"You can and you will. A wedding present, remember?"
"Yeah, alright. Thanks."
"Take care, now."
Harry and Ginny waved and left the store behind, each of them carrying a bottle of juice.
"Harry, this is really some good stuff. I wonder how hard it would be for someone like Madame Rosmerta to make."
"I don't know. It can't be that hard, though. Maybe we can ask her."
Arm in arm, the couple returned home.
A few days later, Harry came to another conclusion. There was someone else he needed to see before he could move on with his life. So it was, one morning, Harry found himself back at Privet Drive, standing on the front porch, finger hovering over the doorbell. With a great breath, holding tightly to Ginny's hand, he pushed the button. After a few moments, the door opened and Harry stood face to face with Aunt Petunia.
She looked older than he remembered. Her hair was grayer, her face more lined. She stood in the doorway a moment, her eyes running over him before glancing at Ginny. Something flickered in her eyes then disappeared. Then she silently backed up and let them in.
"I left a few things here. I wondered if they might still be here."
"I wouldn't know," Petunia responded, voice dull.
Harry disappeared to his room, found the few remaining items, remarkably untouched and returned to the sitting room.
"There's something I need to say, Aunt Petunia, so please hear me out."
At her tight lipped nod, he cleared his throat, paced a few steps and rubbed the back of head trying to figure out how to start.
"As you obviously know, Voldemort's gone." Petunia nodded and Harry continued. "After that last battle, I got to be in a bad place, mentally. It's taken some time but I'm getting better. I understand things better than I used to. I've learned some things about myself, some good, some bad. One thing that's taken me a very long time to learn is that I'm not abnormal; I'm not the freak you always said I was. I'm learning to see the real me, not the one you painted. I'm still trying to accept the fact I am worthy of love, that I do belong somewhere."
Harry paced a little more before going on.
"You have no clue what could have happened. Voldemort was an orphan, too. He grew up without any kind of loving care, living in a Muggle orphanage. He had no clue he was a wizard, either. When he attended Hogwarts, he was placed in Slytherin House, which prides itself in having members who are ambitious, cunning. The Sorting Hat wanted to put me in Slytherin, too."
He nodded at Petunia's look of dawning horror.
"I see you're finally beginning to get the picture. Lots of parallels, huh? Here's another one. He and I are related. You see, one of my dad's ancestors was brother to one of his."
Ginny stared at him, wide eyed. She hadn't known that. She thought back to what she knew of the story. She shuddered slightly.
"That's creepy, Harry," she said with a slight frown.
"I know but it's true."
"Why are you telling me this?" asked a very pale Petunia.
"I'm telling you this to try to get you to understand what your actions could have set in motion. I'm hoping that by understanding what your hatred could have caused, maybe you'll think twice in the future about how you deal with people you see as being different or odd."
"You're right, Harry. I've been very unkind to you over the years. I can't undo any of that but I can admit that I'm glad to see you're alright. I may not have cared for you the way I should have but I didn't like the idea of you dying at that monster's hands, either."
Petunia looked away from the young man who looked very much like the young man who had stolen her sister's heart.
"All of that being said," Harry said quietly, "I feel I should thank you."
"Because you kept me. Regardless of how you treated me, you still kept me. You took me in and fed me, clothed me and, because of it, protected me. I may not be alive if you hadn't."
"You look just like them, you know," Petunia said softly. "When you two are together, you could easily pass as them to the casual observer." She turned to Ginny. "Her hair was a deeper red, though, and was a little taller. Her eyes," she glanced back at Harry, "were green, not brown."
The front door opened, preventing anything else from being said. Three pairs of eyes turned toward the sound. Dudley entered the sitting room and came to a sudden halt and the totally unexpected scene before him.
"You did survive," he said in surprise.
Harry snorted. "Yeah, looks like it."
"Good," Dudley commented, awkwardly looking around.
A heavy silence fell onto the quartet, each staring at something and not looking at anyone.
"Well, I think we're going to go," Harry finally said. "You won't have to worry about me coming back. Hope things go well for you all from now on."
Harry picked up his broom and uniforms. Ginny stood and joined Harry. As the two were heading for the door, a voice called out.
Harry turned back to see his aunt standing, a look of uncertainty on her face.
"Maybe...maybe we don't have to be complete strangers, right? I mean, an occasional letter or card, maybe?"
"I think I can do that."
Petunia nodded. Harry said his good-byes and walked out of number 4 Privet Drive, shutting the door on an old life and walking away with a beautiful wife, ready to embrace the new life waiting for him.