"Rise and shine, London! And it's a beautiful Sunday morning, chaps! The coffee is boiling, the cauldron is simmering and it's the WWN here ready to brighten up your sullen days! And in today's entertainment news, singing sorceress Celestina Warbeck announced her engagement this morning in front of—"
Twenty-five-year-old Harry Potter reached toward his bedside table and turned the wireless off. Stretching luxuriously on his bed, he folded his arms behind his neck and leaned against the headboard, raising himself a few inches. Harry smiled before fully opening his eyes and putting his round, black glasses on the bridge of his nose. It was indeed a beautiful Sunday morning in London.
He could hear the twittering of flying seagulls outside on the Thames River. He could hear the honking of Muggle cars outside, and it lightened his heart. He really was in London, the London that would forever be his home.
Harry stood up and put on the shirt hanging from the back of a chair before padding out to the kitchen of his East End flat. The first time he laid eyes on the picture of the two-bedroom flat in a Muggle magazine back in New York, he knew he had to get it. After a number of calls, he finally got the flat and he'd moved in as soon as he arrived two days ago.
Harry grabbed a mug from his pantry, conjured some coffee in the coffee maker, poured himself some, and went back to his bedroom to get ready for the day. He reached out his hand and stroked his loyal owl, Hedwig, on her perch beside the balcony door. "Hullo, Hedwig. Had a fun night, girl?"
Hedwig hooted and closed her eyes, obviously enjoying the affection of her owner. Harry chuckled at his owl and picked up the letter that was sitting on the table beside the perch. He couldn't help but grin as he recognized the letter was from his best friends, Ron and Hermione Weasley, badgering him to come home for his goddaughter Aya's first birthday.
I know you're busy and all, but before you come up with a reason not to come, hear me out first. As you know, it's Aya's first birthday on the eighth and ‘Mione and I would really like you to be here. Please, mate, you have to be here. ‘Mione's already badgering me about making you come, and you know her. She's been really edgy these days for some reason and you really don't want to face her temper. If that doesn't make you budge then, please, have mercy on your best mate and come. My beautiful wife will literally strangle me if I can't make you come. But if you really can't make it, just do something about ‘Mione. She's really not in the mood—
Harry, it's Hermione. You've read Ron's note, right? I will really fly to New York and hex you into oblivion if you can't make it! And yes, my husband won't come away unscathed either, of course. Besides, you promised me last month and I won't accept any other excuse! Please, Harry. Do it for me. You weren't here during her birth and christening, so could you please be a good godfather and fly here for your goddaughter's birthday? Ginny's coming too, you know. Love, Hermione
There you have it, mate. I told you she's gone mad because of this silly birthday celebration. If you ask me, I'd just take the kid to the park and give her a present instead of throwing a party. But you know Hermione. What she wants is what she gets. And you know that I love her so I couldn't say no.
And yes, Ginny will be here if it helps to convince you to come. I promise that, if it will make you happy, I'll send that boyfriend of hers to Azkaban. Please, mate. And besides, we miss you. ‘Mione, me, and Aya (though I'm not too sure my daughter knows you). The whole family -- from Mum and Dad to the twins to Percy, Bill and Charlie, and of course, Ginny -- misses you so much. Yes, mate, she misses you; she just wouldn't say it out loud.
I hope I have blabbed enough reasons to convince you. I really hope you can make it. If not for Hermione, then do it for me. You really don't want to see me in a casket when Hermione's done with me.
Hope to hear from you soon.
Harry laughed and took the mug of coffee before stepping out onto the balcony to face the Thames. He remembered the day he owled his best friends to tell them he couldn't come. Ron had been telling the truth about Hermione getting mad. She sent him a Howler, screaming about friendship and swearing she'd never speak to him again. But things had turned around when unfortunate circumstances occurred in the International Auror Confederation head office, causing him to be transferred back to London. Instead of feeling worse, he supposed it was just a blessing in disguise. He had missed a lot of events, from Aya's birth and christening to Arthur Weasley's appointment as the new Minister of Magic. He just hoped that he could make up for the lost time.
Harry walked toward his shower door and glanced at a few chosen words in Ron's letter that was lying on the table. Yes, mate, she misses you; she just wouldn't say it out loud…The words kept rolling back like a broken record in his mind, nagging and nagging him.
The warm water cascaded over his body as he closed his eyes, reveling on the warmth of the spray. Harry's thoughts drifted to the only woman who made his heart race, Ginny Weasley. He had loved her for nine years and kept everything inside his heart. He was afraid that she might not reciprocate his feelings, or worse, she could be in danger from everything that was haunting him—everything that was attached to him for being The Boy Who Lived. And loving her from afar, watching her happy with other men, was enough torture for Harry. His heart had ached when he saw her cry after his announcement that he was moving to New York, but that didn't push him to admit everything to her. He was crushed when she seemed to have moved on after getting involved with David Croft months after he left. At that moment, he knew that leaving without letting her know his true feelings had been the biggest mistake of his life. He had been young, afraid, and gullible, but now he was ready to do everything to win her back and make her his forever.
He stepped out of the shower, shook his head dry, and got into a pair of black trousers and a polo shirt before throwing on his robes. Grinning, he grabbed the package he'd chosen for his goddaughter and started to the door of his bedroom. Before leaving, he glanced at the picture of the Weasley family on his bedside table; Ginny was waving energetically, but still beautifully, in the middle of the crowd of redheads.
Harry's smile faltered. He had loved her for too long; he wouldn't let this one chance slip away.
And with a loud CRACK, he Apparated to the Burrow.
* * *
You are losing a serious battle there, Potter, Harry thought miserably as he tried to flatten his hair for the millionth time.
Harry surveyed the scene before him. The Burrow wasn't much different from what he remembered. The house that had opened its arms to him thirteen years ago hadn't changed even though Arthur Weasley was the new Minister. It was still a place of joyful chaos, chaos that only the Weasley family could bring. This clutter was good to see, unlike the clutter he was used to seeing back in America. It was full of laughter, full of family life, unlike the boring, angry mess in the office. Warmth and love were still emanating from its many topsy-turvy parts and Harry couldn't help but grin. He was really home.
He nervously fixed his unruly hair again, even if he knew it was useless. The round glasses were back in his flat as he was wearing the contact lenses he was used to wearing during some raids. He knew it would be a surprise to the family seeing him without his trademark glasses, but he hoped it would be a good surprise to all of those redheads, especially a particular female redhead.
Harry let himself inside the house and he could hear the laughing going on in the backyard. He moved to the living room and found himself face to face with none other than Molly Weasley.
"Harry?" Mrs. Weasley asked, her hand flying to cover her mouth.
"Hi, Mrs. Weasley." He smiled sheepishly.
Mrs. Weasley squealed and ran toward him, wrapping her arms around his neck. "Oh Harry! This is so good! It's so nice to see you again! Ron and Hermione will be so happy you're here! When did you return? How was your trip?"
Harry smiled widely. "Just two days ago. I didn't owl Ron so I could surprise them. I'm really sorry if I caused any trouble with Hermione, Mrs. Weasley."
Mrs. Weasley waved her hand and led him to the kitchen. "Oh you! There's nothing to apologize about! As if you don't know Hermione, Harry. And call me Molly. You're an adult and you have the right now to call me by my first name, though I wouldn't say no to Mum, of course."
"Okay, Molly," Harry said, chuckling.
"Come here, and I'll call Ron and Hermione," she said smiling affectionately. "And you'd better have something to eat now. American food doesn't suit you, you poor thing."
Harry couldn't help but laugh as he followed Mrs. Weasley outside. Some things really never change. She opened the kitchen door to reveal a whole backyard filled with redheads of all ages. He could see all of the Weasley brothers and their wives, and a number of children he assumed were Bill and Percy's kids. Harry smiled at the sight.
"Ron, Hermione, dear, guess who came to visit?" Mrs. Weasley called to what he could see were his two best friends.
Hermione turned around first and Harry laughed. Her jaw literally dropped before she laughed and ran towards him.
"Oh my God!" Hermione squealed as she reached him. "Ron! Oh my God!"
Hermione threw her arms around his neck and almost squeezed the air out of his lungs. "Oh my God, I missed you, you git!"
"I missed you, too, Hermione," he chuckled, letting go of her.
Hermione released herself from his arms and swatted him lightly on the shoulders. "Bloody right, you should! You owe us big time!"
"Yeah, I know," he said, smiling. "And I'm here, so there's no need to hex me and Ron, eh?"
"Yes, of course. Yes," she said, joining his laughter.
"You great prat!" Ron said as he suddenly materialized in front of Harry, giving him a bone-crushing hug. "I thought you weren't coming!"
"Couldn't let Hermione kill my best mate, could I?" he said laughing.
Ron looked at him from head to toe in a mock menacing way. "Bloody hell, you shouldn‘t!"
"Hey, I did owe you big time, right?"
"Too right, Potter!" he said before laughing again and giving him another brotherly embrace. "It's good to see you, mate."
"You, too," he said, grinning and releasing Ron slightly. "So, where's my beautiful goddaughter?"
Hermione grinned. "She's with her Auntie Ginny. She's feeding Aya some of her birthday cake."
Harry felt a sudden huge lump jump to his throat. Ginny was here, and the mere mention of her name gave him the goose pimples. "Ginny's here?"
"I told you she'd come!" Ron smirked. "She's just probably somewhere—Ah! There she is!"
Harry followed Ron's direction and saw a brilliant flash of red not a few yards away from him. He knew that particular shade of red and the face it was framing. She looked the same; in fact, she looked more beautiful to him, even if her brilliant brown eyes were widened with shock and her perfect little mouth was hanging wide open. He gave her a small smile, and gathering up his courage, he took a step forward toward her.
"Harry, you prat!"
Harry staggered a bit as a very large hand swatted him rather painfully on the shoulder. He turned around to see the smiling faces of the remaining Weasley bachelors, Charlie, Fred, and George. "Hey, you guys!"
The three brothers each gave him a pat on the shoulder. "Glad you could fit the famous Weasleys into your busy schedule, Mr. Potter!" Charlie teased, grinning widely.
"I'm just on leave," he laughed. "And besides, I owe my goddaughter three separate occasions, you know."
Fred laughed. "So, how's New York?"
"Hmmm," Harry said in mock thoughtfulness. "Hot as hell. May isn't really the perfect time for rose picking there."
"What about the women?" George asked, wagging his eyebrows suggestively. "Anyone you could introduce to your dear old friends?"
"I really don't know a lot of women from America," he said chuckling. "But I could introduce you to some of our clients there if you like."
"Ah, that's my boy!" George said, patting him on the back. "Any blonde American dogging your heels, now?"
Harry shook his head. "Oh, there's no one George. Listen, is Ginny busy?"
Charlie smiled and put his hands inside the pockets of his trousers. "Why do you ask?"
"Err…I just would like to see her, that's all," Harry said blushing.
"Tsk, tsk, Harry," Fred said smirking. "You've only just arrived and this is what you do?"
"I-I-I didn't mean—"
Fred, George, and Charlie burst out laughing. Harry stood stock-still, unable to utter a single word.
Charlie patted him on the shoulder. "We're just joking, Harry! Listen, there's my sister by Aya's playpen. Go talk to her."
Still confused, Harry left the three guffawing Weasleys and proceeded on his quest. There were a lot of Weasleys around waving and smiling at him, and being the well-mannered person that he was, he couldn't help but look and wave a greeting back to Bill and Anne, and Percy and his kids when they called his name. When he turned his eyes back in the direction of the playpen, Ginny was gone.
"Ah, there you are, son."
Harry sighed and turned around to face the next interrupting Weasley. "Mr. Weasley!"
"Ah, call me Arthur," he said, shaking Harry's hand. "You're family, anyway. So, when did you come back?"
Harry blushed, feeling guilty for thinking of Mr. Weasley as an interruption. "Just two days ago, sir."
"Randall was just asking me about taking you back to the London IAC office," Mr. Weasley said smiling fondly at him. "Told me we will continue to be idiots if we let one of our best English Aurors serve a foreign land. I'm expecting Randall will owl you about it."
"Okay, Mr. Weasley," he said, nodding. "But I'm just on leave. I have to think about it first."
Mr. Weasley laughed, putting his arm on his shoulder and leading him to the buffet table. "Ah, of course. I wouldn't want to badger you with work when you're still with us. The family really missed you, son. We're really hoping you can stay here with us."
"I am, too, sir." He smiled, taking a sip from a glass of pumpkin juice. "Er, is it okay if I leave you while I talk to Ginny?"
Mr. Weasley laughed and patted him on the shoulder. "Ah, yes! I think I saw my daughter preparing some tea in the kitchen. Go ahead and talk to her."
"Thank you, Mr. Weasley." He grinned and shook Mr. Weasley's hand again.
"It's Arthur, son," the older man said, smiling at him.
"Ah, yes, Arthur!" he said, half-running towards the kitchen and looking back at him. "Thanks again!"
Harry slowed down a bit when he reached the clutter of boots by the kitchen door. He swallowed hard and fixed the lapel of his robes. You're just going to talk to her, it's not like you're proposing, he scolded himself. Harry sighed. Goodness, he was nervous as hell. Really, nothing could go wrong, right?
* * *
Get a grip on yourself, Ginny mentally scolded herself as she poured tea into her mug. You're acting like a love-struck teenager again!
True, she had been acting like her lovesick schoolgirl self ever since Harry's unexpected arrival that afternoon. And that little smile he gave her had been enough to make Ginny swallow the massive lump in her throat and make her heart leap a mile—something similar to what had happened thirteen years ago when she first saw him here in the Burrow. At least this time, she hadn't squealed and run away like she did before.
But she had still acted like the eleven-year-old girl who'd had a huge crush on The Boy Who Lived. She had almost dropped the cake she was holding when Harry took a step in her direction, but unfortunately—or rather fortunately—her brothers had stood in the way. With every step he had made, there had always been at least one Weasley who would wave and talk to him, interrupting his journey toward her. And she had used that as an opportunity to seek refuge inside the house on the pretext of preparing some tea. Why she had acted like that, she really didn't know. Her heart had thumped so hard when she saw him approaching. God, he was just probably going to say hi to her; it wasn't like he'd be proposing or something.
She secretly watched him from afar, hiding behind the kitchen door to admire him while he waved and greeted her brothers. And she couldn't help but notice that Harry had grown more handsome in the last three years. His job at the International Auror Confederation in New York surely suited him. Though he was still relatively lanky, his shoulders and arms had grown broader, giving him a seemingly leaner and stronger built. His glasses were gone, too, as he was now wearing contact lenses, she assumed. Now, even from afar, Ginny could see the rich greenness of his eyes—the greenness into which she could drown herself.
One thing hadn't changed, though; his black hair remained as unruly as ever, sticking up in every place imaginable.
Ginny sighed and leaned against the kitchen counter. His mere presence was enough to give her mixed emotions. She was happy to see an old friend again, yes; but she couldn't deny that something hidden and forgotten from the past years might resurface once again.
She cursed herself for thinking such things. You've got a boyfriend if you're starting to forget.
A boyfriend, all right, another voice in her mind said. A boyfriend who's not always there for you!
She closed her eyes, making those voices in her head stop. You're losing it. You're definitely losing it, she thought miserably.
Ginny's eyes snapped open. She saw Harry standing at the kitchen door and giving her the smile that made her heart skip a beat.
She felt a warm gush of blood slowly creeping up her cheeks. "Oh, h-hi, Harry," she squeaked. She forced her muscles to smile and hide her stammering. Snap out of it, Ginny! What's the matter with you?! It's just Harry!
She couldn't determine if Harry didn't notice her sudden uneasiness or if he simply ignored it because he was still wearing an odd smile on his slightly pinkish face as he trudged to her.
Harry's eyes met hers for a moment and she could feel an electric jolt running through her spine. His smile widened and that sent more shivers through her body. She smiled shyly and looked down at the cup of tea in her hands, cursing herself for having these silly schoolgirl reactions.
Silence fell between them; she knew Harry was looking at her but she couldn't seem to face him when she knew she was rather red in the face. But she had to say something to break the ice.
"Want some tea?" she asked, looking up at him but trying to avoid his eyes.
Harry nodded. "Sure. Tea sounds great."
Ginny turned around and took a mug from the pantry, relieved at the opportunity not to look at him.
"So, how are you?" he asked jovially.
"I'm good." She smiled as she handed him his cup of tea. "How are you?"
"Great. Never better, actually." He took a sip from his cup and turned to her. "You know, I was watching you from afar. You're more beautiful than I remembered."
Ginny was now sure that her cheeks had turned bright pink, but she instantly put her guard back up and chuckled. "Don't flatter me, Potter!"
Harry smiled shyly. "You're not supposed to say that. Your answer should be ‘You're looking good, too, Harry'," he said, winking at her.
Now, Ginny couldn't contain her laughter. "Harry! Since when did you learn how to flirt?!"
He laughed along with her. "I know, I know. I simply suck at these things."
"No, that's not what I meant," she said between laughs. "It's just that—" But Ginny wasn't able to finish her sentence because a new wave of laughter escaped her lips.
Harry's lips turned into a mock pout. "Okay, laugh at me. I must be really that terrible!"
Ginny, still laughing, turned to him and held onto his shoulders to steady herself. "No, you're not! I just can't picture you using these pick-up lines and hitting on girls."
Harry looked down, blushing slightly.
"So, did any girls fall for your newfound smoothness?" she joked, but she couldn't deny that a part of her was dreading Harry's impending ‘yes'.
Smiling, Harry shook his head. "No, not really."
Ginny turned to him sharply, surprised by what she had just heard. "What do you mean by ‘not really'?"
"Well, I only went out a couple of times but it was nothing serious."
Ginny nudged him playfully. "You must have really sucked then."
"Possibly!" Harry turned to her and smiled. "Actually, I hadn't used that there."
"American girls don't catch your fancy, I suppose?"
Harry nodded. "Yes. That's why I never had a serious relationship there."
Ginny couldn't hide the small smile that was spreading across her face. "Really?"
"Yeah, I've only seen one girl since I moved there and it's just because of one of my colleagues," he said, a sudden shyness and seriousness in his voice. "He insisted that I should take her out and he didn't stop until I did. But it was nothing serious and I stopped seeing her after a couple of times."
Ginny's eyebrows knotted. "Why so?"
"I think I left my heart back home."
Ginny's heart started beating unexplainably faster again.
Harry turned to her and looked at her in the eye. "I left my heart in London."
Their eyes met and Ginny could feel herself melting under Harry's gaze. She suddenly felt weak and her knees felt wobbly, and if she hadn't been leaning against the kitchen counter, she might have fallen over.
There was something in his eyes that she hadn't seen before in all those years that they had been friends—something penetrating. It was like they were telling her a certain something, a certain secret hidden deep inside.
Ginny's heart was throbbing like mad as she probed his eyes. Was Harry actually telling her what she thought he was telling her? She felt him inch closer, still not taking his eyes off her.
"Hi, Honey! Sorry I'm late."
Ginny turned around sharply and saw her boyfriend, David Croft, standing by the kitchen door.
To be continued….
A/N: We'd like to express our deepest gratitude to the god who goes by the name of Rodrigo Santoro (also known as the Hunk Who Lived) for being our grown-up Harry Potter and for giving us the inspiration and the "divine intervention" we need for writing this fic. Again, obrigada a Jenna Mae, KC, e Solveig para o beta.