As always, a feeling of contentment swept over Harry as he entered their flat.
Their flat — his and Ginny’s. They might not have got to their wedding yet, but he knew it: she was his family. This was their home. It’s what he had fought for, what he had wanted his whole life.
Small and cosy. Cluttered but neat. Home.
Dropping his kit, ready to start dinner for when Ginny got back from practice, Harry took in a deep breath, taking in the scent of flowers, of…
Surprised to see Ginny’s broom in the cupboard, Harry sidled over to the kitchen and was greeted to the sight of his fiancée standing at the counter, flour in her brilliant red hair, mixing something in a large bowl that had been a house-warming gift from her parents.
Tip-toeing behind Ginny, he threw his arms around her waist and kissed her neck. “Hey, beautiful.”
She squawked, dropping the cookbook to the counter, then turned in his arms and smacked both of his shoulders. “Don’t do that!”
“Or… I won’t do this.” She pushed up and kissed him deeply.
Several minutes later, Harry lowered her, smiling down at her. “Wouldn’t want that.”
“No,” she agreed, cheeks pink.
With another quick peck, he released her and pointed at the batter that she had been mixing. “Baking?” Of the two of them, Harry was the one who enjoyed cooking more.
“So what’s the occasion?”
Ginny’s eyes narrowed. “Don’t tell me you forgot?”
Harry’s brain raced. They’d celebrated their birthdays — and their engagement — with a wildly romantic weekend the previous month. They would be getting married the following June. And it wasn’t the anniversary of their first kiss, a date was burned into his mind: May 10. “For… Forget?”
“Oh!” She pushed him away. “I can’t believe it! Typical! Mum was so right! Men! Not even married yet—”
As she wound up, Harry noticed that while her face was red, there was a sparkle in her brown eyes. “You’re taking the piss, aren’t you?”
She stuck out her tongue at him and laughed. “Oh, fine. But not really.Tell me, Harry, what’s the date?”
He scowled at her. “Sep…” Then comprehension dawned. “First of September. 2001. Tenth anniversary of the day we met.”
“Too right!” Now she smiled at him. “I knew you’d remember.” Then she kissed him again, and that was all that Harry could think about for quite a long time.
Home. This was home. Ginny was home and safety and everything that he had lacked right up to that very day, 1 September, 1991: the day that he walked away from the Dursleys’ world, and entered the world of the Weasleys. Of magic.
He had spent the summers with his aunt and her family, but the minute that Harry met Ginny’s family at King’s Cross, their world had become his. Little Whinging had been his home in name only.
That his mind had created an ethereal King’s Cross as the place between life and death made perfect sense to Harry: he’d been reborn there once already.
When he and Ginny took a breath, they were sitting beneath the counter. Her hair was everywhere, her face was blooming, and he had never loved her so much. “Shall we take this back somewhere more comfortable?”
“Why, Harry Potter!” she said with a smirk that belied her tone of outraged dignity. “What kind of girl do you think I am?”
“The sexiest girl in the world,” he answered with absolute seriousness. “Who I want desperately.”
“Well,” she laughed, jumping up from his lap, “you’ll just have to wait for it.”
“Ginny!” he whinged, pushing himself upright.
“Oh, come on, Potter, you know where I sleep, and you know I want you just as much, but—”
“But! I’m making a cake!” She turned back to the bowl, picking up the spoon and mixing the batter. As she stirred, the scent — vanilla, cinnamon — flooded Harry’s heightened senses. Poking at the gloop, Ginny frowned. “Hope I’m doing this right. I’m following Mum’s recipe, but I never feel…”
“Certainly smells right,” said Harry, and dipped his finger into the batter.
“Oi! Get your filthy mitts out of there!” squawked Ginny, turning and swinging —
Safe. Safe and dark.
Harry reached his left hand out to his right, which stung only a bit, the way it sometimes did when they’d hurt him so badly that his body couldn’t even register it.
He was glad that he couldn’t see. He worried that she’d broken the skin. That bones would be broken. He usually healed, but healing was painful and… And there was something sticky. Sticky and…
He lifted his fingers and sniffed. Vanilla. And… cinnamon.
Cinnamon. Freckles. Red hair…
A sliver of light grew as the cupboard door opened slowly. Disconcerted, Harry blinked up, seeing not his aunt’s furious face or his uncle’s, the colour of overripe cherries, but the white, worried face of the most beautiful girl in the world. He shook his head, trying to clear whatever was fogging his mind. “I… Ginny?”
She knelt beside him, her hands clasped tightly in her lap. “Okay, Harry?”
“Uh.” He had no idea. “What… How did I…”
She was peering into his eyes. “When I - I smacked your hand with the spoon, you - you just went pale, and…”
“Oh.” The kitchen. Cake. Anniversary. King’s Cross. “I ran back… here.”
“Harry?” She looked close to tears as he had not seen her since Fred’s funeral. “Did I… Do we need to heal your hand?”
“My hand?” He held it up, seeing the oval of cake batter where she’d connected with him. He flexed his fingers. “Oh. No. No. It’s fine.”
She nodded, but didn’t look at all relieved. “Are you okay?”
“I—” Harry was about to answer, as always, that he was fine, but he was sitting under the coats in their hall cupboard and he had no idea how he’d got there. “I don’t know that I am.”
She nodded again, face still grave. “Harry?” When he just scowled at her, Ginny bit her lip, but then shook her head and continued, staring at her still-clasped hands. “When the Carrows used to - to use the Cruciatus on us…”
She shuddered, and Harry shuddered in sympathy.
“When they’d do… that, it was always in the Muggle Studies classroom. And there was this whole pile of these cardboard thingumes shaped like strawberries that stank—”
“Air fresheners,” muttered Harry, remembering Aunt Petunia’s fondness for them.
Ginny shrugged. “Anyway. Any time I smell strawberries now, I can’t… I’m right back in that room. Feeling the curse.”
In spite of his own numbness, his own confusion, Harry pulled her to him. “So that’s why you don’t like strawberries.”
She nodded. “Was this… like that?”
He nodded in agreement, his chin sliding through her hair.
“Was it… Did I do something that Tom…?” He could hear the tears in her voice.
“No,” he rasped, suddenly aware that he was crying himself. “Nothing like that, not at all.”
She turned and faced him, face grave. “Then what, Harry? What could have made you feel that way?”
“My…” Now he found that he was the one who had to look down. “The Dursleys.”
“Harry.” He looked up, and her gaze now was absolutely fierce. “Did your relatives hit you, Harry?”
He started to shake his head, but her eyes held him. “Harry?”
“Well,” he found himself spluttering, thinking of all of the times that he had told teachers, the other kids, even a policeman once that he was fine, that he’d just tripped because his clothes didn’t quite fit, that he’d got the bruises and the broken glasses from standing too close to the door when it opened. And the bruises had always healed quickly, so no one seemed to care. Beneath the dab of cake batter on his hand, however, Harry saw the faint slogan written in scars: I must not tell lies. “Well. Yeah.”
“Your uncle?” She said it as if she were casting a curse.
He nodded, feeling the shame course through him. Freak! Abomination! Ungrateful—! “And my aunt. And Dudley.” When her eyes flared dangerously, Harry said, “Not all the time. And not all at once.”
“Like that’s better?” she snarled, tears coursing down her face.
“No, not really. But at least Duddikins and Uncle Vernon just used their hands.”
“Just?!” Ginny backed up. “And your aunt? Did she use her hands, or…?”
Harry couldn’t help it. He shuddered. “Um. Mostly. Sometimes she’d swing a frying pan at me.”
“A FRYING PAN?”
“She only actually hit me once.” He rubbed his shoulder in remembered pain; that was the only time they’d ever actually brought him to hospital. Just to the Accident and Emergency Department. Although brought was pushing it. Dropped off was closer, because why should they wait hours and hours surrounded by people feeling poorly, just for a freak like him? “I got really good at ducking.”
“It’s not funny, Harry. I want to kill them, I swear.” Taking a deep breath and letting it out, Ginny touched the back of his hand. “And… did she hit you with a spoon?”
“Yeah,” he admitted, not daring to look her in the eye.
“This is not your fault, Harry. Merlin!” She gripped his hand in both of hers. “I’m amazed you didn’t kill them!”
He frowned at her.
She gave a humourless laugh. “There’s a reason that sort of thing doesn’t happen much in wizarding families, luv. Accidental magic.”
“Accident…” Then he thought of the cases he’d been out on as an Auror, of how often what looked like a Dark spell was just the overflow of a young witch or wizard’s anger or fear. “Oh.”
“Yeah,” Ginny said, burying herself in his chest. “Oh.”
“I did blow up my Aunt Marge once,” he said, and was surprised to find himself laughing.
Ginny joined him moistly. “She’s lucky you didn’t turn her into a slug. My cousin Mafalda did that to my uncle once when he was pulling out a splinter.”
“In Aunt Marge’s case, a slug would have been an improvement in both looks and temperament.”
“Huh.” She backed up again, but the fierce look was gone. “Merlin, Harry. How did you stay at all sane?”
He thought about it; he’d thought about it a lot. “You know that day I met you? At the time it felt like I was leaving the real world, leaving my home — but really?”
“Really, I was coming home, even if I didn’t know it at the time.”
“Oh, Harry.” She sniffled and burrowed into him again.
“You were so adorable that day.”
“Bollocks. You didn’t even see me.”
“Not true! I saw you. And I may not have realized just what a wonder I was looking at, but I knew when I heard you fighting with the twins that you were a force of nature.”
“And then…” He could see it clearly: her bright face, tear-stained then as now. “And then you ran after the train, waving, and I thought, That’s how it’s supposed to be. That’s what a family is. I want that.”
She laughed again, a more honest effort. “I can’t believe… You remembered that?”
Now he smiled too, shaky as he felt. “I never forgot.”
“Lucky me,” she sighed, leaning forward.
And once again, there was nothing to think about for a long, long time.