Disclaimer: All characters are the creation of J. K. Rowling and the property of. J. K. Rowling and Time Warner.
“HARRY POTTER! TELEPHONE!”
Upstairs, through his closed bedroom door, Harry could hear his Uncle Vernon yelling. As much as he loathed obeying the man, the fact that telephone ringing he heard was for him piqued his curiosity. He wondered who could be calling him, realizing almost immediately that it could only be Hermione. Ron, and the rest of the Weasleys for that matter, still hadn’t been able to grasp the concept of how to use a phone. Considering the number of half-bloods and Muggle-born wizards and witches, Harry often thought it was strange that so many witches and wizards had trouble with Muggle concepts, such as telephones and Muggle clothes.
When Harry got downstairs, he asked his uncle, “Telephone? Me?”
Barely looking up from his paper, Vernon said, “That’s what I said, didn’t I? They do use proper English at the bloody school of yours, don’t they? At least this ruddy fool seems to know how to use a telephone and knows some proper manners. Actually said `Please’ and `Thank you.’”
Ever since finding out that Snape was half Muggle, Harry had often wondered if Snape and his uncle were distantly related.
Turning his back to his uncle, Harry picked up the phone. Pretending to be reading the paper, Vernon listened to Harry’s side of the conversation.
“Hi, Hermione. No, I just worked out it was you. What, tonight? No, tonight’s good. Tonight’s fine. Trust me, the sooner the better. How long? An hour? That should give me time enough to pack. Bye.”
Hanging up the phone, Harry turned towards his Uncle. “That was my friend, Hermione. Her parents are driving her here so we can go to our friend Ron’s house. They’ll be here in about an hour.”
Uncle Vernon squinted at Harry. “Will your freaky friends at least be arriving here normally?”
Harry just sighed resignedly. “Don’t worry. Her parents are ‘normal.’ They’re dentists. You’d probably like them. From what Hermione says, they drive a Mercedes.”
“Dentists! Humph. You’d think people like that would have more sense regarding their daughter, sending her off to that bloody school,” Uncle Vernon muttered to himself as he returned to the paper, but Harry was already climbing the stairs to pack for the last time.
As much as Harry was looking forward to seeing Ron and Hermione and visiting the Burrow, what he was really looking forward to was seeing Ginny again. They had only started going out for a few weeks before the end of term. He knew he liked her and he thought he knew how much she meant to him, but he was surprised how much he missed her. The frequent owl messages, at least as frequent as he could get past the Dursleys, helped, but it wasn’t the same as seeing her, as holding her, as kissing her. If it was true that absence makes the heart grow fonder, then Harry could no longer deny that he was in love with Ginny.
Fifty-five minutes later Harry was nervously sitting on the steps waiting for Hermione. He had been pacing the living room until his uncle told him to “Stop that bloody fidgeting!” Time and time again he looked at his watch after what he felt had to be ten minutes, only to find out that all of thirty seconds had passed.
When at last the doorbell rang, he leapt up and shouted, “I’ll get it! I’ll get it!”
The first thing he saw was a mass of red hair, and he blurted out a surprised, “Ron?”
“Happy to see you, too, mate. It’s not often I get such a warm welcome,” his best friend replied sarcastically.
“No, I was expecting Hermione and her parents. She didn’t say anyone else was coming.”
“Sorry,” added his other best friend, as Harry finally noticed Hermione standing next to Ron, the two of them filling the doorway. “We felt, you know, this is the last time you’ll be leaving here…”
“…and it’d take more than you two to handle everything,” Ron continued. “Besides, I was, well, you know …”
“Finally, formally meeting the girlfriend’s parents?” Harry smirked. Ron and Hermione had finally got together not long after Harry and Ginny had, as if taking a cue from them.
“Yeah, and after all the teasing we got from Ron, it was fun seeing him squirm a little,” sounded the voice he was longing to hear. Ron and Hermione stepped aside as Ginny walked towards him.
Harry got out only a brief, “Ginny,” before she was in his arms, kissing him deeply.
“Do you have to do that in front of me?” Ron whined.
Finally breaking the kiss, Ginny retorted, “You’re a fine one to talk. It’s a good thing for you that your girlfriend is Muggle-born: after Mr. Granger caught you two, if he’d known any curses I’d probably be short one brother.”
“Really?” Harry said as he turned towards Ron, still holding Ginny in his arms. “Made you sit in the front with him while Gin and Hermione were in the back during the drive here, right?”
“Yeah,” Ron said sheepishly, but he perked up, adding, obviously trying to change the subject, “But I have to admit, for a Muggle vehicle, the Mercedes is nice. Smooth ride, the air conditioning was almost as good as a Cooling Charm, and that sound system! You familiar with a group called ‘The Beatles’?”
“I think I’ve heard of them. Out of Liverpool, aren’t they?” Harry replied as he turned to Hermione and gave her a knowing smile that was replaced by a puzzled look as he asked her, “Where are your parents? I don’t see them?”
“Oh, Mum stayed at home,” she started, but then leaned closer to Harry and whispered, “and I think Dad just wanted to put a little of the fear of God into Ron. I may be of age in the wizarding world, but in the Muggle world I’m still his little girl.”
“What are you two talking about?” Ron asked accusatorially.
Ginny, who had heard every word that they’d said, just smiled at her brother and said, “Nothing.”
Ignoring Ron’s puzzled look and a stammered, “What? Uh, Gin knows but I…” Harry asked Hermione, “But where’s your Dad? I thought he was driving us to the Burrow.”
“Oh, he was driving to a conference, and this was on the way. He’s actually running a little late, so he had just enough time to drop us off. We were able to create a Floo connection at Mrs. Figgs’,” Hermione explained.
“WILL YOU CLOSE THAT BLOODY DOOR?”
Ginny looked at Harry, raised her eyebrows, and asked, “Your uncle?”
“Yeah, I don’t know which would be worse: not introducing you and being an unmannered prat or introducing you and listening to his `freaky friends’ remarks.”
“I can’t come all this way and not meet the famous Vernon Dursely,” Ginny added playfully.
Harry shook his head and told her, “I don’t deserve you.”
“Too right on that, Potter,” Ginny smirked, as they walked hand in hand to the living room.
But before they entered the room, Harry motioned for Ginny to stay back. He answered her puzzled look with a playful, “Oh no, no, no. A young gentleman’s lady friend must be properly introduced,” and added a slight bow. Ginny just giggled.
Uncle Vernon was still reading the paper. Dudley, mercifully, was off doing whatever mischief he could, and Aunt Petunia was finishing up her evening spic and span clean up of the kitchen. With a “Here goes nothing,” Harry walked into the living room followed by Ron and Hermione.
“Uncle Vernon? I think you’ve met Ron, and this is Hermione.” Ron just gave a little wave, but Hermione nodded her head and said, “Hello, Sir. We spoke earlier on the phone.”
Uncle Vernon just gave her a half smile, but squinted at Ron. Harry muttered to his friends, “And he dares comment on the manners of others.”
“What was that you said, Potter?”
“Uh, nothing Uncle Vernon. I, erm, just have one more introduction,” Harry replied as he reached for Ginny.
At the sound of their voices, Aunt Petunia entered the living room. Harry started, “And this, this is my girlfriend.” He paused for a moment, smiled at Ginny, and softly added, “My Ginny,” as he led her into the room. She blushed at his final words. He had never called her that before, his Ginny.
At the sight of the two, Aunt Petunia’s eyes grew wide; she had a shocked look on her face. Collapsing onto a chair she said, “L-Lily?”
The silence went on for what seemed to be an eternity, all eyes on Aunt Petunia, except for Ginny’s, who turned to her boyfriend and asked, “Harry?”
At the sound of Ginny’s voice, Aunt Petunia drew her right hand to her face and shook her head, seemingly on the verge of tears. She bolted from the room to the kitchen, exclaiming, “No! No! No!”
Uncle Vernon sat immobile in his chair while the four youths followed Petunia into the kitchen. She was standing, bracing herself against the sink, shaking. Harry went to her, and asked, “Aunt Petunia?”, but she just brushed him off.
Hermione went to her, ignoring Aunt Petunia’s efforts to push her away, saying, “Mrs. Dursely, you need to sit down.” Aunt Petunia continued to resist until Hermione grabbed her shoulders, turned her around, and forcefully told her, “Mrs. Dursely, you need to sit down now! You’re ready to collapse.” Meekly, Aunt Petunia let Hermione lead her to a chair. Hermione asked her, “Do you want a glass of water?” Aunt Petunia nodded her head almost imperceptibly, and Harry filled a glass from the sink, handing the glass to Hermione, who brought it to Aunt Petunia’s lips. She tried to grab the glass from Hermione and drink the water all at once, but Hermione held it in a tight grip, admonishing her “No, sip, don’t gulp.”
Nobody moved or said anything for a few minutes while Petunia composed herself. Uncle Vernon remained in the living room. Finally, Ginny moved to Harry. He put his arm around her while she rested her head on his shoulder. Sensing the movement, Aunt Petunia looked up. She stared at Harry, a cold, blank expression on her face. Then she turned to Ginny and, through clinched teeth, said, “Run.”
Wide-eyed, Ginny asked, “What?”
“Run. Flee. Do anything to get away from him before he does to you what his father did to my sister,” she implored.
Stunned, Harry asked angrily, “What are you talking about, and why did you call her Lily?”
The two just stared at each other while the other three fidgeted nervously. Aunt Petunia started, “You do so look like your father …”
“So I’ve been told, repeatedly,” Harry interrupted.
Ignoring him, Aunt Petunia turned to Ginny and continued, “… and you,” she cocked her head to one side, examining Ginny, “it’s a different shade of red, but …” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, “… but for a moment, when I saw the two of you together…”
“You thought it was my Mum and Dad, didn’t you?” Harry finished for her.
Aunt Petunia turned to Harry and sneered, “Yes,” and said nothing else.
Harry grabbed a chair and set it in front her. He sat down, his arms folded across his chest, and the two glared at each other. Ginny walked to him, softly resting her hand on his shoulder, and gently said, “Harry?”
He partially unfolded his arms to hold her hand in his. Looking up at her, he gave her a small smile, as if to say, “Thank you.” He turned back to his aunt.
“For ten years, you wouldn’t talk about my mother, you wouldn’t mention her name. Then I found out I was a wizard, and all I heard from you was that she and my dad were freaks. Now you tell my girlfriend to run away from me.” He stared at his aunt. “Tell me.”
“Tell you what?”
“Tell me why. Tell me what my father did to my mother.”
“He took my sister away from me,” Aunt Petunia sternly replied.
“Why would you care? You hated her.”
“I didn’t …”
“Yes you did! Every word I ever heard from you was about how much of a freak she was, how much …”
“I loved her,” she yelled at him.
“Yeah, right. I could tell by the glowing way you referred to her,” Harry responded sarcastically.
“I did, and your father and your kind took her from me!”
“Well, why don’t your regale us with your story?”
She cocked her head towards the other three teenagers, who had huddled together by the sink. “Not in front of – them!” spitting out the last word.
Harry shook his head. “No.”
“No. I’ll tell them anyway. They’re more of a family to me than you’ve ever been. That is unless they don’t want to listen, though I don’t think Uncle Vernon will be much company. He seems to be taking denial to a new level.”
Resigned to the situation, Aunt Petunia closed her eyes and started. “We were close … before that damned letter!”
“So you didn’t like it that she got one and you didn’t?” Harry could not resist the taunt.
“What? No!” Then she got a slightly sheepish look on her face. “Well, the first few years weren’t too bad. I had a sister who could do magic. What did I know? I was just a child then. She would tell me stories during the summers of transforming water goblets, of making things float. But as the years went by … She never said anything, especially to Mum and Dad, but I knew, I could tell, that after casting spells and flying on brooms, coming back to our humdrum life…” Her voice trailed off, but then she steeled her gaze at Harry. “Then she met…” She had a disgusted expression on her face, as if she smelled something especially foul, “… him.”
“My dad, but she didn’t like him much at first.”
“`Conceited prat’ was her usual term for him, yet for several summers she kept on talking about him. James Potter this, and James Potter that. Then during her seventh year…” She had a pained look, as if she were going to cry, “… something changed. I had so looked forward to her being finished, to having my sister back again. But I could tell from her letters she didn’t think he was so conceited anymore. She said she wouldn’t have time to come back, that she had so much to do, but I knew it was him. He was keeping her away from me.”
“She did have a lot to do. Voldemort …”
“I know who Voldemort was,” she spat. “She mentioned him in her letters, how he hated those who were Muggle-born, like her.”
Harry looked at her slyly. “For someone who hates magic so much, you know a lot about our world.”
She leaned towards him, “I told you, we had those first few summers together, I had her letters.” She slumped down in her chair, looking down, “I know enough about your world: your world, the world that took her away from me.
“Your father was just the final step. She didn’t need me, us, anymore.” She looked at him coldly. “And what did it get her? It got her killed!”
“You may have heard about Lord Voldemort, but you know nothing about him. He wouldn’t have stopped at Muggle-born witches and wizards. He would have gone after all Muggles, including you, if she hadn’t sacrificed herself to save me!” he shouted at her.
She stood up and started shouting back at him. “Voldemort! Voldemort! Voldemort! I don’t give a damn about your precious Voldemort. If she had stayed at home - and not gone to that bloody school - like she should have, if she hadn’t met your father, my sister would still be alive. If she hadn’t given her life to save you…” Her voice was filled with venom on the last word. “And then we got you, and every time I looked at you I saw the one who got my sister killed!”
“You seem to think she was a fool, as if she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It wasn’t anything like that. He as going to kill me, and somehow her love saved me. You think very little of her sacrifice, especially for me – and I’m not sorry I look so much like my father – but I couldn’t begin to imagine how many people, Muggles and Wizards, are alive today because of that sacrifice. In our world, she’s famous. People know who Lily Potter was, and the last word they would associate with her is `fool’.”
She stared blankly into space, and, almost resignedly, replied, “I couldn’t care less what your people think. It was one of them that killed her. That’s all I know and all I care about.”
Silently, they all tried their hardest not to look at each other, until Ron muttered, “And now that Voldemort’s back …”
Aunt Petunia turned on Harry, shouting, “He’s back? I thought he was gone! My sister is dead and he’s back?”
Trying to avoid his aunt’s fury, Harry proceeded to tell his aunt of Voldemort’s return. Dazed, Aunt Petunia collapsed back onto the chair and turned towards Ginny. “I repeat what I said earlier, girl. Run. Flee. He’ll get you killed as surely as his father got my sister killed. Leave that bloody world of his.”
Ginny walked in front of Aunt Petunia and glared at her. “I happen to be a pure-blood witch. My family goes back for centuries in that – what did you call it? - bloody world of his. If anything, he entered into my world.”
“I …” Petunia started, but Ginny cut her off.
“You’ve had your say, and now it’s my turn,” Ginny paused for a moment, and then coldly, bluntly added, “Aunt Petunia.” Petunia just meekly looked up at her.
“You like saying how much you loved your sister, but those are just words unless you’re willing to act on them. As Harry said, you seem to think very little of your sister sacrificing herself for Harry, but I ask you,” Ginny bent down and looked Petunia directly in the eyes, “What would you have done to save your precious Dudley?”
Petunia gasped and stared at Ginny. She stammered, “I, well…that is. I would…” Then she whispered, “I would have done what I needed to do” and bowed her head, trying to avoid Ginny’s gaze.
Harry looked down at his aunt. “I thought as much.” He turned and started to walk away, but then turned back to face his aunt.
“My mother’s love saved me, and now it’s up to me to complete what she and my dad started. I love my friends.” He glanced at Ginny. “I’m in love with Ginny.” She gasped. He went to her, holding her face in his hands. “Not exactly the way I was planning on telling you. But, but this time apart from you…”
“Yes?” she interrupted.
“I couldn’t think of anything, of anyone else, but you, and I know I never want to be apart from you,” and he kissed her.
Holding Ginny in his arms, he turned to Aunt Petunia. “Dumbledore always said that love is the one power I have that Voldemort doesn’t. I don’t know. Maybe it’s nothing more than knowing what I have to fight for, what I have to lose. Maybe it’s that I would do anything to save Ginny, save my friends, save the Weasleys, and Voldemort only cares about himself. Maybe you should have remembered how you felt about my mother, your sister, instead of feeling sorry for yourself for sixteen years.”
He turned to the others. “I’ve had enough. Let’s just go.”
Uncle Vernon gave a start - trying to pretend he had been reading the paper all along -when they passed through the living room. He gave Harry a dirty look when he advised his uncle, “You should probably look in on your wife.”
After going upstairs for a quick glance through his room to make sure he had everything, Harry noticed that Uncle Vernon hadn’t moved.
Ron and Hermione were able to send Harry’s things to the Burrow, and then it was time to walk to Mrs. Figg’s house. Closing the door behind him, Harry took a deep breath. “Let’s go home.”
Ron looked bewildered, “Uh, but Harry, this is …”
Harry smiled at his friend. “No, Ron, this isn’t my home, at least not anymore. It never really was. Dumbledore’s spell may have made it a safe place for me, but the Burrow, that’s my home,” he took Ginny’s hand, “especially now. A home has warmth and love and caring. This was just a house; all it gave me was shelter.”
And Harry Potter walked away from number four, Privet Drive for the last time and never looked back.