Disclaimer: This is the first chapter of a projected fifteen-chapter story. (It all depends on how wordy and creative our Beta Reader, Kalarien, allows us to be!) Everything but the plot and a character or two is J. K. Rowling's, and this story never was, is not, and never will be intended to infringe on any copyrights, trademarks, or other legal declarations of ownership held by anyone anywhere, being written merely for the amusement of those who just know that Harry and Ginny are going to wind up together! We thank Ms. Rowling for giving us this wonderful world to play in!
Dumbledore has told me that the spells he placed on Number 4 Privet Drive will expire at the stroke of Midnight on July 31st--When I turn 17. Because of this, he wants me to stay at The Burrow from that time on and has given me a Portkey that I am supposed to use on my birthday.
That means we'll have more than a month together before classes begin again at Hogwarts! I've missed you so much these past weeks, although having so many of the Order popping in and out to check on my welfare has Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon so worked up and scared that the amusement factor almost makes it worth having to stay here.
Tonks Apparated into the kitchen this morning, and I think she planned what she did very precisely. Dudley was just starting to sit at the table when she stuck her wand between his bum and the chair seat. He must have leaped five feet with that magical goose! Then, she started in on Uncle Vernon, and turned his mustache a lemon yellow color! Of course Aunt Petunia shrieked and dropped the teapot, which broke and spilled tea all over the floor, and Dudley slipped and sat down very hard. I've never seen Uncle Vernon so mad or so purple! It went well with the mustache color!
Of course, they didn't say anything while Tonks was here, but I think they'll be very happy to be shut of me after these past two summer holidays. When I told them that I would be leaving on the 31st, I know Uncle Vernon gave a sigh of relief! I don't think he appreciated everyone in the Order checking in on me while I've been here during summer holidays--although it did make my life here a little more pleasant.
In any case, I'll see you very soon after Midnight on my birthday, and if a certain young lady with red hair and freckles is waiting there for my arrival, that would be a wonderful present to find. I also have a special surprise for you--something that Dumbledore told me about this year at Hogwarts. I promised I wouldn't say anything until I get to the Burrow, but I'm pretty sure you'll like it!
I love you, Ginny Weasley!
Harry put aside his quill, folded the parchment, and stood up, stretching to ease the cramp he'd acquired from sitting too long while he wrote letters. Ginny's letter was the ninth he had written that evening, the one he always saved to do last. The other letters, to several members of the Order, to Hagrid, to Ron, to Hermione, and to Fred and George, were already neatly stacked. He added Ginny's letter to the stack, bound the packet together with a length of string, and waited for Hedwig to come back from her nightly exercise and hunting.
He stretched out on his bed, thinking about the petite redhead he had come to love so much. She was going to go wild when he told her of Dumbledore's news concerning her. That news had made him very proud of Ginny.
He rolled over to the edge of the bed, and dropped an arm so he could reach under the bed. He pulled out a small box, and opened it to see if his other surprise for Ginny was still there. He spent quite a bit of time looking at his gift for her, imagining what her reactions would be when he presented it to her. But he still had months to go before he would be able to give it to her; and was planning that event for the end of term before next year's summer holiday, which seemed reasonable. He would have finished at Hogwarts by then, would have his NEWTs behind him, and would be living with the Weasleys all next year while he prepared for Auror training.
That thought led to another, less pleasant bit of mind play. He touched his scar, wondering what Voldemort was up to. There had been no Death Eater attacks for nearly three months, and the twinge of pain that had alerted him to the times when Voldemort was emotionally unguarded had not occurred for the same period of time. True, Tonks had told him that there were rumors at the Ministry that information passed on to them indicated the leader of the Death Eaters was again in hiding, but he knew first hand just how evil the Dark Lord was. He may have gone to earth for a time, but he was certain to be planning some new atrocity for when he slithered out again.
Harry's thoughts were interrupted by Hedwig's arrival. The snowy owl had glided in through the window and come to roost atop her cage.
"Hello, Hedwig. Have a good hunt?" he said, sitting up on the bed.
The owl gave a soft chirp in reply.
"I'll take that as a yes. Rest a bit, and then I have some letters for you to deliver, please. Okay?"
Another low chirp seemed to indicate Hedwig's affirmative answer.
Harry lay back down for a few minutes before tucking the box back under his bed, taking his packet of letters, and placing them in the special carry-sack that he had devised to make flying easier for Hedwig.
"Ready?" he asked of the owl, which gave a long low hoot and flew over to the desk. "First to the Order's Headquarters, then to Hermione. After that, to Hagrid, and the last ones to The Burrow." Taking the sack in one taloned foot, Hedwig launched herself and was swallowed up by the darkness.
Harry peered out the window, took off his shirt and trousers, and hung them in his wardrobe before climbing into bed. He pulled out a worn volume from the shelf where his books were stacked, opened it to the page he had marked the night before, and settled back to read for a bit before turning off the light. He smiled to himself, thinking of what Hermione's reaction would be when he told her he was finally reading Hogwarts: A History.
Normally, it wouldn't have been his choice of reading material, but Ginny had finally convinced him to at least look at the book, and when he had found mentions of other Potters at Hogwarts, he started reading in earnest. The first mention he had found was apparently a multi-great-Uncle of his, Waldomere Potter, who had gone on from Hogwarts to become the designer of the first racing broom expressly designed for Quidditch--the ancestor of his own Firebolt!
Further reading had filled in quite a bit of his genealogy, and he found it surprising that he had relatives--very distant cousins--living in the American States across the Atlantic. He flipped the page, and stopped. His heart gave a small lurch, for on that page was a wizarding photograph of his parents, looking much younger than they had in the Mirror of Erised or in any of the photographs he had. He read the caption below the picture, while James and Lily--Dad and Mum--waved to him from the page.
"James Potter, Gryffindor Chaser, is at the forefront as he waves to the crowd after Gryffindors upset victory over Slytherin in 1977. He is joined by his fiancé Lily Evans."
Harry felt a lump grow in his throat as he marked his place with a bit of green ribbon that Ginny had used to tie back her hair last year. He would apologize to Hermione when he next saw her. He wished he had listened to her sooner.
Harry's birthday was nearly here. He had packed his trunk, had Hedwig in her cage, and held his wand at the ready to activate the Portkey that would take him to The Burrow. The second hand on his watch showed less than a minute till midnight. He would stay after that time only long enough to cast a final spell before leaving forever--He smiled at the thought. Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon, and Dudley wouldn't miss him when he left ... Uncle Vernon had as much as said that to his face earlier in the day--but they would definitely remember him. He had planned his revenge to be subtle but permanent on the Dursley household ... Something that would drive the Dursleys mad if they so much as looked at it... And it would be very hard to miss.
When midnight came, he held up his wand and concentrated. Golden arcs of light streamed from it, snaking through the hall, bathing the staircase in their shimmering light. They crept into every room, each seeking out a flat, colored surface, enclosed behind glass, and surrounded with a rectangular form of wood or plastic. The colors and lines that had adorned those objects shifted, flowed together, and rearranged only to redefine themselves in a new shape. The golden streamers changed to an angry crimson, and a short three-word sentence was burnt into every one... Then Harry spoke a word of binding, flourished his wand, and a permanence spell flowed throughout the house. Smiling, he grabbed his trunk and Hedwig's cage, placed his hand on the Portkey, tapped it with his wand, and was jerked away from his prison of sixteen years...
When Vernon Dursley woke up in the morning, he slid out from under the covers, wrapped himself in his dressing gown, and headed to the bathroom. When he returned, he flipped on the light switch... and stopped dead in his tracks. His face grew purple, and he erupted in a scream of rage. This was repeated many times that morning, for when he saw the picture over his bed, or any picture anywhere in the house, every single one now bore Harry's image, the words "Our Beloved Nephew" burned into the frame, and all were magically and permanently fixed in place.
The Burrow was quiet when Harry arrived, with all but one of the Weasleys asleep in their beds. That one jumped up from her seat in the parlor and ran to embrace him.
Ginny welcomed her boyfriend with a kiss even before he could put down Hedwig's cage, and then whispered in his ear, "Welcome home, Harry!"
Harry finally managed to unburden himself, and took Ginny into his arms. "I've missed you, love."
Ginny blushed at Harry's use of the endearment, but that didn't stop her from planting another kiss on Harry's lips before replying, "I've missed you, too, Harry! Mum and Dad have you set up in Percy's old room, but why don't we have a some tea and biscuits before we take everything up there, okay?"
"Sure," answered Harry, "That sounds like a good idea. Besides, I want to talk to you, and catch up on the latest news--not that I don't enjoy kissing you." He leaned down and kissed Ginny.
Ginny grinned and kissed him back again before taking his hand and leading him into the kitchen. She pointed her wand at the teakettle, which began to heat on its own, then took two mugs from the cupboard, fixed a plate of lemon biscuits, and set them on the table before taking her seat. Harry sat down next to her. She looked at him, and he looked at her for nearly a minute before they both started to chuckle.
"Okay, Harry, you've kept me in suspense long enough. What's this big surprise you're going to tell me about?"
Harry grinned. "I don't know if I want to tell you just yet."
"Harry James Potter! You stop teasing me right now, or I'll--I'll--I'll..."
"You'll what? Hex me? Sic Fred and George on me? Don't you know you get more flies with honey than with vinegar?"
"Sure--let me demonstrate..." and he leaned over and kissed her cheek.
She responded by placing a hand on his jaw and turning so he could kiss her properly. Their lips met, soft and gentle at first, but soon a bit harder and more passionately. Ginny pulled away only long enough to remove his glasses, and said, "Honey, huh? Honey like this?"
She drew him into another kiss, long, deep, and satisfying. It felt as though time had stopped--Harry never wanted this moment to end, and responded by putting his arms around her in a tender embrace meant to hold her there as long as possible. Several minutes later, they came up for air, their breathing now rapid and shallow.
"Uhmm-Huhmm," he whispered to her. "Very good honey!"
"So...?" Ginny sounded a bit impatient.
"So, are you going to tell me, or do I have to try some vinegar to get it out of you?" Her lips were now pursed together, showing her displeasure.
"No, no vinegar," laughed Harry, "though I probably should wait until everyone's awake. They'll want to hear this, too."
"Harry Potter! You tell me right now--you can tell them tomorrow morning at breakfast!"
"All right, all right--I'll tell..." Harry now had confirmation that he had taken the teasing just a little too far.
"Just as long as you tell me NOW!" barked Ginny.
"All right, Ginny. Dumbledore told me that Snape was impressed by your work in Potions last year--impressed enough to suggest you take the seventh-year classes this year, and try for an early NEWT."
"What? Seventh Year Potions? An Early NEWT? Me?" she squeaked.
"And that's not the best part," continued Harry. "The best part is that this means we'll be in Potions together--and Snape won't be there!"
"He finally convinced Dumbledore to give him the Defense Against Dark Arts position. We'll have a new Potions instructor!"
"Oh my! Did he say who it would be?"
"No, he didn't--but as long as it isn't Snape, I'm perfectly content."
Ginny reached up and pulled him into another kiss, a short one this time as the teakettle reached a boil and started to whistle.
"Let me set the tea to steep, and then we can get back to..."
"Get back to what, Virginia Weasley?" came a voice from the doorway.
"Mum! You startled me!"
"Hello, Harry dear. I see you've arrived safely," said Molly Weasley, giving him a hug. "Welcome home."
"Thank you, Mrs. Weasley."
"We were just going to have a cup of tea before we took things to his bedroom, Mum. Do you want one, too?"
Molly looked from her daughter to Harry and back again. "I'm assuming you mean his trunk and Hedwig's cage, don't you, Virginia, dear?"
"Of course, Mum. What else would I--" Ginny stopped in mid-sentence as Mrs. Weasleys question connected with what she had just said, and began to blush furiously.
Harry flushed a bright shade of pink at the same time. Ginny's verbal faux pas and Molly's quick wit had turned the innocent statement into a double entendre. If Harry hadn't seen Molly's mouth twitch into a smile, he might have thought she was serious and thinking that "things" in his bedroom were going to ‘happen' rather than be taken up there...
Both of them realized just how good a joke she had played on them when Molly started to giggle.
"Oh, look at you two. I know what you meant, Ginny darling, I was just having a bit of fun. But of course, I might assume you're blushing because of a guilty conscience..." she smiled again, "...so I think I will have that cup of tea with you."
"Oh, Mum," said Ginny, "Harry has always been nothing more than a perfect gentleman with me."
"Yes, dear, I know--but have you always been a perfect lady with him?"
Both Harry and Mrs. Weasley laughed heartily as Ginny turned a bright shade of pink once more. To hide her discomfiture, she turned away and busied herself in brewing the tea and transferring it to the teapot, then digging another mug out of the cupboard. By the time she sat down at the table and poured the tea, she had returned to her normal coloration.
"That wasn't funny, Harry," she said, looking him in the eyes.
Harry was about to apologize when he noticed the corners of her mouth quirk upward involuntarily.
"I'm sorry I laughed, Ginny, " he deadpanned, "but there has been a time or two..."
He didn't finish the sentence because Ginny gave a shriek of outrage as she blushed again, and leaped from her seat to rush around the table toward him. Both Mrs. Weasley and Harry were roaring with laughter as Harry fended off Ginny's attempts to tickle him. It wasn't long before all three were laughing, tea forgotten and cooling on the table.
"Oh, my," gasped Mrs. Weasley as the laughter finally subsided, "That felt so good. There hasn't been a lot to laugh about recently. Harry, dear, it is so good to have you back here with us... Happy Birthday!" She leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
That inspired Ginny to sit down in Harry's lap and turn toward her mother. "Mum, I'm going to corrupt Harry now, so you just look away. I don't want you seeing what a scarlet woman your daughter is with the man she loves."
Her eyes sparkled in mischief as she wrapped her arms around Harry's neck and gave him a very passionate kiss as her mother watched, one that made him flush pink.
"Oh, get on with you. It's late, and Harry will still be here in the morning," she chuckled. "Now get to bed, both of you!" She paused as Harry and Ginny looked at her with silly grins on their faces, realizing that she had uttered the double entendre this time. Molly's cheeks turned red, and she chuckled again. "You know what I meant! Now goodnight!"