She knew she’d find him back at Privet Drive after the service—the question was where.
Petunia’s rose bushes seemed likely enough, but they were wilting and unattended under the September sun. She peered up into his old room—the window still bore the scars where the Anglia had yanked the bars off of the window—but it seemed to be empty.
Mrs. Number Six peeked through her kitchen curtains. She hadn’t been at the cemetery. Ginny stuck out her tongue at the Nosey Parker and then cautiously walked around to the front. The door was slightly ajar. She opened it.
Harry was seated inside an open broom cupboard under… The Cupboard Under the Stairs. Bloody hell. Too many locks—locks for keeping in. Bloody hell.
Hunched forward, his hair and Muggle suit uniformly black, he looked like Huginn, Luna’s raven. In his hands was a stack of envelopes. Dozens. At his feet lay a pile of several dozen more, opened. Letters. Wrapped in each was what looked like a photograph; at least one of the figures in each photograph seemed to have bright red hair.
“Harry,” she said.
“They’re all to me.” He looked stunned. “One a week. For the last… five years or so.”
“From… my aunt.” He read from the one in his hand. “’Dear Harry, I always meant to tell this…’ Most of them start that way. ‘I always meant to tell you…’ ‘Have I ever said…?’ ‘Did you ever know…?’” He looked back down at the letter, his brow knotted. “’I always meant to tell you this, but your mother and I used to play at being witches when we were little. We’d put on our mum’s black frocks and roll up construction paper to make pointy hats…’”
For the first time all day—for the first time since Harry had gotten the call, saying that Petunia was in hospital—Ginny felt leaden sorrow settle in her middle. “Oh, Harry.”
“’It was such fun. We would giggle and laugh and play pretend, and every once in a while, one of your mother’s spells actually worked, and we would giggle all the louder…’” Harry’s voice was flat and expressionless—it was the voice he used when telling her his nightmares. He folded the letter in his hand and bent down, searching through the stack at his feet and snatching one up—a Muggle snapshot of a redheaded girl tumbled out. “’You probably never realized this, but when you laughed as a child, your eyes looked so much like hers that I would have to run into the next room and cry.’” The monotone was breaking now; Harry batted at his glasses with the back of his hand, trying to clear his eyes.
“She loved her sister after all,” Ginny said, knowing how wonderful and how horrible it would be for Harry to learn such a thing.
“THEN WHY?” Harry howled. “Why…?” He gesticulated at the house, at the cupboard. At himself.
Kneeling beside him, Ginny touched his shoulder as gently as she could manage. “Because she was frightened, maybe? Because she blamed you, or your dad, or maybe even your mum?”
Harry leaned his head on Ginny’s should, letting the letters fall to the floor. “Hell.” He sobbed for a moment, and then spluttered, “I feel rotten, like I should have reached out to her more, after Dudley and Uncle Vernon…” Dudley, killed by Lucius Malfoy, the ponce, who thought that that would somehow wound Harry, rather than simply making him more determined. Vernon Dursley, who died of an aneurism not long after.
“You did reach out to her, Harry.” Ginny ran her fingers through his hair and down his back. “I came with you. It’s not your fault that she never let you in.”
He sobbed truly then, mourning for Petunia Dursley in a way that the woman herself would no doubt have found almost as intolerable as the pile of letters in her front hall.
Some time later, when he had cried himself out, Harry glanced up at the cupboard; there was a crayon drawing of a massive figure riding a winged motorcycle; Ginny remembered Harry saying that his aunt had howled at him, because she’d never been able to scrub it off. “She’s left it to me,” he said, voice steady but no longer flat.
“Left? Left what?”
“The house. The bloody house. What the bloody hell am I going to do with this house? I spent the first seventeen years of my life trying to escape….” He shuddered, and she drew him close again. “The letters were all in the cupboard. Every one addressed to me.”
“Then that’s all she wanted you to do with the house, I think, Harry: to find the letters. She wanted to make peace with her sister. With you. Even though she wasn’t really capable.” Ginny thought of her own family—of their constant squabbles and feuds and the way that Harry always seemed to revel in the chaos of it. Poor sod. Stuck in a home that didn’t know how to love, when he was practically made of the stuff.
Letting a deep, hot, wet breath loose into Ginny’s neck, Harry sighed, “She was the last link I had. She was the last person I was actually related to.”
“Oh, Harry,” Ginny said with a tempered smile, “you’re a lot more linked than you realize. And if it’s blood relatives you want, well… There’re things that you and I can do about that.”
He blinked at her, clearly uncertain what she meant.
“Clearly that talk my dad had with you all of those years ago didn’t really take, Harry,” she said, grinning more broadly as the Knut dropped, along with his jaw. “Now, let’s clean up these letters. You’ll want to keep them, I think, and your aunt would be scandalized if we left the house a mess. Do you want to Apparate back to the flat, or shall we go to the Burrow so Mum can give you a refresher course on where little wizards and witches come from?”
“The flat,” Harry said, more kindly than Ginny had any reason to deserve. Summoning the letters, he gave Ginny a long, deep kiss. “I don’t want us to decide to have kids just because… But thanks, Ginny.”
“Oh, Harry, I just…” She was pleased to see him looking like himself again, if only for the moment. “My pleasure.”
He held out a hand as he looked around. “I can’t believe she’s dead.”
“Well, you know what Luna says, Harry. Those we love never truly leave us.”
Suddenly his eyes were focused entirely on her, and Ginny felt as if she were twelve again, light-headed under their weight. “Lucky me,” he said, and gave her another kiss, breathless and fierce. “Come on,” he said finally. “Let’s go home.”