He turned to his wife as the train rounded a bend and the last car rolled out of sight. Her hand hung in midair as though she longed to continue sending her love across the miles through the simple gesture of a wave until she knew the train had reached its destination safely. Smiling, he gently took her hand in his to brush his lips across the knuckles, then leaned forward to kiss her damp cheek. "C'mon, love," he said, tugging her around to face him. "Everyone's gone."
"Oh, Harry," she sighed, brushing away the tears with her free hand. "She's so young. I'm worried—"
"She's the same age we were when we first went to Hogwarts. The same age all her classmates are. She'll do fine. And besides, she's got enough older brothers and sisters and cousins there to form a fifth house. They'll make sure no harm comes to her."
"I know," she said, looking up at him with overflowing eyes. "But—"
A corner of his mouth lifted. "No buts, Ginny. All the other parents have left. It's time to go home."
"Home," she murmured sadly, turning once again to stare longingly down the tracks.
Harry took a step closer and wrapped his arms around her waist. "Home," he whispered in her ear. "Our big, empty house." He felt, rather than heard, Ginny's sharp intake of breath, and bent to kiss the top of her shoulder. "You do realize, don't you, that we have the entire house to ourselves for the first time in twenty years?" He turned his head to kiss the side of her neck.
"Harry!" she exclaimed, but he knew from the deepening of the lines around her eyes that she wasn't really shocked. After nearly a quarter-century and eight children together, he knew her moods by heart. Chuckling mischievously, he turned her around to kiss her properly.
"It's not even midday on a Friday," he murmured against her lips, "and I have the rest of the day off from work." He pulled her closer and kissed her again. "What do you say we go home and make the most of things?"
Ginny's darkened gaze and flushed cheeks were all the response he needed. They clutched at each other's hands, grinning like randy teenagers. In a flash, they'd Disapparated, leaving nothing behind but a discarded newspaper lying on the platform.
~~~~~ <<<<< >>>>> ~~~~~
Whenever he chanced to think back on his life—an occurrence that happened more and more frequently with the passing of the years—Harry was always amazed to realize that there had once been a time when he hadn't been passionately in love with Ginny. He'd long since excised the painful memories of his childhood with the Dursleys, and thought of that miraculous summer when Hagrid had appeared with his acceptance letter to Hogwarts as the time when he had first truly come into being. Ginny had almost always been a part of his life since then, first on the periphery, then gradually moving closer and closer until she took her rightful place at the center with him. His discovery of her had been so gradual it was upon him before he even realized it. Shy glances became lingering looks; an awkward embrace became fingers entwined under a table; a tender first kiss became impassioned groping in an empty classroom. When Lupin fell at the hands of Peter Pettigrew she held him until his voice gave out; when Percy allied himself with Voldemort, he used his lips to wipe away her tears.
Yet even after he'd defeated Voldemort, when the entire wizarding world—and a good portion of Muggle society as well—erupted into unbridled rejoicing, Harry couldn't find the courage to make love to Ginny. It wasn't that he didn't want to, because there wasn't anything he could think of that he wanted more. He didn't because he was afraid. The intensity of his feelings for her—and the knowledge that she returned them just as strongly—terrified him more than Voldemort ever could. Above all else, knowing what he did about the power that coursed through his veins, he feared losing control.
In the end, it was Ginny who seized control, forcing him to acknowledge and confront his fear face-on. After he'd finished at Hogwarts, after Voldemort's downfall, Harry'd gone on to the Auror Training Academy with Ron as they'd longed to do ever since fifth year. He saw Ginny as much as Kingsley would allow, and when his mentor balked, he wrote her long, rambling letters where he struggled to put the tempest of his feelings into words. At the end of the summer she returned for her final year at Hogwarts, and for ten long months the sight of Hedwig on his windowsill was the only thing that kept him from chucking the lot and Apparating to Hogsmeade.
On a warm June evening he returned to his flat to find Ginny, who'd finished her N.E.W.T.s that afternoon, waiting for him. She didn't even give him a chance to utter her name before pouncing on him.
The first time had been frenzied and disappointingly brief, but Ginny was patient and Harry was determined. To his great relief he didn't set the roof ablaze, but a leg did snap off of his bed, sending them sliding to the floor in a sweaty tangle of naked flesh. After that, they kept to the floor, except when they retired to the lavatory for a shower that proved more exhilarating than refreshing. All Harry could think as he ran the tip of his finger alongside her bare breast was that making love to Ginny was the most brilliant thing imaginable, and he was sorry he'd put it off for so long.
They'd decided not to marry in the traditional sense, knowing their union would invite a firestorm of unwanted publicity. They chose instead to plight their eternal troth to each other in the shade of an oak tree, with Dumbledore's headstone as their sole witness. Mrs. Weasley had been disappointed not to see her only daughter as a proper bride, and Ron—ever the conservative one—had fumed about Harry turning his sister into a "scarlet woman," but wiser, bushy-haired heads soon prevailed. It wasn't long before Harry was welcomed as a true member of the Weasley family. When Harry and Ginny's first child was born three Christmases later, no one was prouder than Ron of his new niece. Now, after twenty-three years and eight children, no one questioned Ginny's right to call herself Mrs. Potter.
They lived in London until Harry had completed his Auror training. He'd been offered his choice of glamorous, high-profile assignments, but chose instead a constabulary near Salisbury. While he maintained peace and order in the surrounding villages, Ginny opened a small primary school in one of the outbuildings on the manor they'd bought and restored with Harry's inheritance from Sirius. Young witches and wizards came to Ginny's school from as far as thirty miles away to join their growing brood of children in preparing for Hogwarts, and soon she was as highly-regarded as he was. Not once, since they had settled here, did Harry regret his choice, or think longingly on the life of fame and fortune the wizarding world would gladly have given him. He had fulfilled his destiny, and was quite happy to live out the remainder of his days as a husband, father, wizarding constable and gentleman farmer.
His life with Ginny, though mostly idyllic, had not been without its rough spots. After Percy had been released from Azkaban they'd quarreled, with Harry insisting the Ministry not return his wand and Ginny arguing just as vehemently that he'd been fully rehabilitated. There was also the painful memory of the owl they'd received from Hogwarts informing them that their eldest son had been bitten by a werewolf during an illicit foray into the Forbidden Forest. They'd also been dragged, kicking and screaming, into the middle of many of Ron and Hermione's numerous spats to the point that, even when she wasn't speaking to him because he'd sided with Ron, Harry thanked Merlin he'd had the good sense to fall in love with Ginny.
Then there had been Mr. Weasley's sudden collapse last year. Cerebral hemorrhage, the healers had called it at the inquest. He was dead before he hit the floor. Ginny had wanted her mum to come live with them after the funeral, but Harry, looking forward to the day when their last child left for Hogwarts and he could have his wife all to himself again, had demurred. She'd been in a towering temper over that for ages and still bore a grudge against him, even though Bill and Tonks moved into the Burrow soon after.
In all, though, it had been a good life, Harry thought as he rolled over and draped an arm over his sleeping wife. He loved Ginny as fervently as he ever had, although time had allowed his love to deepen and mature into something far more sustainable. The fiery passion of their youth had evolved into a more enduring, patient kind of love, a love where Harry was content simply to cup a sagging breast in his hand or run his lips over the network of silvery stretch marks Ginny wore across her belly as a hallmark of the family they'd made together.
Of course, he thought with a grin as Ginny shifted and stretched, unconsciously pressing against his reawakening member, he still enjoyed making love to her. He had every intention of making full use of this time they had alone. With this in mind, he pulled her gray-streaked hair away from her face and pressed his lips against her temple.
"Mm," Ginny sighed, her eyelids fluttering open. "Have I been asleep long?"
Harry rolled her over on to her back and ran a hand down her waist to her hip, pulling her closer. "Just long enough," he murmured before kissing her.
There was a twinkle in her eyes when he pulled away. "You're incorrigible," she said, smiling as she clasped her hands around his neck and drew him back down. "But I like that about you."
Yes indeed, Harry thought as he settled himself once again over Ginny, despite the bad start, life had certainly been very good to him.