Harry stood alone at the end of a snow-covered country lane staring at the crooked silhouette of a home he had dreamt about so often. It had been over two years since he had laid eyes on this house over two years since he and his two best friends had departed this place for the last time.
He remembered that day like it had happened yesterday, not what now seemed to be a lifetime ago. They had been standing in the kitchen of the Burrow the morning after Bill and Fleur's wedding when Ron had told his parents. There had been yelling, and crying, and pleading before Mr. Weasley had been able to calm his wife. Ron had been crying as well at the end. He had begged his mother to understand and finally, grudgingly she had given in and accepted his decision.
But the hardest memory for Harry had been that of Ginny. They had become closer again during the wedding and as he explained to her what he must do she had just stared stone-faced into his eyes. She had insisted that she should come with; he would need her on his journey. But Harry had held fast to his decision; she would be safer here and her mother would need her. He had promised he would return for her when it was all over, and in the end she had run crying from the room. That was the last time he had seen her face and gods how he had missed her beautiful brown eyes. He had written as often as possible never knowing if his letters ever reached their intended target, never knowing if she still cared for him.
The war had been over now for less than twenty-four hours. They had finished what they had set out to do, and it had ended not with a fierce and glorious battle but with the cowardly act of a dethroned tyrant. With the destruction of the sixth Horcrux they had begun their hunt for the last piece of Voldemort's soul; the fragment he still possessed within himself. In the end they had let themselves be found and captured by his followers. When they had been brought before the dark lord he had laughed and called them week and foolish for thinking they could destroy him.
They had stood before Voldemort and his Death Eaters defiant, with no signs of fear or weakness. When Harry had seen his opportunity he had played their trump card and cast the discarded shells of the destroyed Horcruxes at Voldemort's feet. The look of fear and disbelief that had crossed Voldemort's face was unmistakable when he had realized what had been laid before him. He had tried to disapparate, to run from the nineteen-year-old man standing before him, but Harry had expected this and been ready to react. It was Ginny that had come to him in those last moments; an image of a future he had felt could never happen, a future with Ginny at his side. It was his love for her that had enabled him to speak that horrible incantation with such force and power that when the green light faded from his eyes, Voldemort lay dead at his feet. Voldemort's followers had fled at the site of their master's demise, leaving the trio alone in triumph.
They had sent word of Voldemort's death to the Order in the form of a broken wand. A simple note was attached containing only two words, 'It's over' and had been signed with a lightning bolt. By now all of the wizarding world would know what had transpired that day.
Harry had sent Ron and Hermione ahead to the Burrow with assurance that he would be joining them shortly. He had things he needed to do before he could resume his previous life, places he needed to go.
His first stop had been Gringotts; there was something there of great value he needed to retrieve.
He had discovered this treasure two years ago after they had left on their journey. They had been away for nearly a month when the need to replenish their supplies arose. Harry had tried to disguise himself but was waylaid by the goblin that had been helping him and quickly ushered into a back room. Bill had been expecting this and had notified all the goblins that if anyone requested access to Harry's vault they were to be brought to him immediately. Harry had assured Bill that they were safe and had asked him to promise not to tell anyone that he had seen him. After some persuasion, Bill had agreed. It was on this trip that Harry had discovered the small plain box sitting off to the side of the piles of gold, silver and bronze and it was this treasure he had now returned to get.
No one noticed the hooded figure making its way through the celebrations that had sprung up everywhere around Diagon Alley. The dark figure had disappeared through the front doors of Gringotts only to exit and quickly disapparate a short time later.
Harry had found himself standing at the edge of a small muggle village. He had apparated to its outskirts so as not to attract undue attention to himself as he began to search for his destination. Harry had never been to this place before and knew of it only from the stories he had been told. It had taken him nearly an hour before he found a kindly old muggle woman that pointed him in the correct direction. The snow had been deep and it had taken him another hour to find what he was searching for, but his heart had guided him true and he soon found himself kneeling in front of a an old, weatherworn headstone.
Tears stung at his eyes and threatened to freeze on his cheeks as he looked at the un-kept state of his parent's final resting place. It appeared that no one had been here for years and he had done his best to clean the shared grave marker before continuing. Placing his hands in his lap, Harry lowered his head in belated mourning.
"Mum, Dad… it's me… Harry. It's done; I've finally finished what you started. Voldemort's gone for good and everyone's safe now. I know I should have come to see you sooner but I just couldn't… I couldn't until it was over." Nineteen years of sorrow and loss threatened to overtake him.
"I'm not sure where to start. I miss you both so much, yet in my heart I know you've been there to help me be strong when I needed you." Harry sighed and placed his hand into the pocket of his traveling cloak. "I need that strength again."
Harry removed his hand from his pocket and opened the small box he had removed from his vault at Gringotts. The ring inside sparkled under the crisp winter moonlight.
"I've found someone very special to me, Mum, and I want to give her this." Harry set the box holding his mother's ring on the snow in front of the headstone. He had known it was hers instantly when he had first laid his eyes upon it, recognizing it from the few pictures he had of his parents. Harry also knew that there was no other ring that would do for Ginny. "I want to ask her to be my bride, but I don't know if she still feels the same for me. I'm afraid she will have moved on. I love her."
He had knelt there in silence collecting his thoughts, a light snow falling around him, when a tiny movement had caught his eye. Harry looked up to see a pair of small gold-breasted birds perched atop the headstone, intently staring down at him. They had no fear of him. Harry lifted his head for a closer look at the pair, and watched as they turned their heads, seeming to get a closer look at him as well. Tears formed in Harry's eyes and fell heavy to the snow beneath him. The tiny pair seemed to recognize his sorrow and had answered with their own beautiful music. When their song had ended he had looked at them half smiling and half crying. Harry knew his request of his parents had been answered; she would be there for him when he returned. They had just told him she would be.
As he rose to his feet to leave, the tiny birds continued to stare at him. After a moment he knew he had one small task left to do before his heart would allow him to leave; so he had taken out his wand and touched its tip to the frozen ground at his feet. At the point where his wand had touched the frozen ground two flowers appeared, two flawless white lilies that would continue to bloom forever no matter the season. At the appearance of the flowers, the birds provided one last flourish of song and then flew off into the night.
With a final smile, Harry disapparated to the one place he knew he belonged, the place where his heart was waiting for him.
Standing there in that country lane, as the snow piled about his feet, Harry wondered how she would react to seeing him after all this time. He was not the same skinny teenage boy that had walked out the back door of the Burrow that day. The war had changed him; he had grown strong and lean. A life of constant movement and battle had turned the skinny body of boyhood into the hard-muscled body of a man.
As he started up the path towards the Burrow, the cold wind brought the sounds of merriment and laughter to his ears. It was a glorious sound and one that he had so dearly missed. His heart pounded in his chest as he doubled his effort to reach the house and its inhabitants that awaited him.
Once there he steadied himself for what lay inside. Through the closed door Harry could hear the raucous laughter of Moony and the unmistakable scolding of the twins by Mrs. Weasley. And then he heard her, a soft giggle that made his heart cry with joy.
Harry slowly raised his gloved hand and knocked twice on the front door of the Burrow. The sounds from inside died instantly. Through the silence he could hear the unmistakable sound of bare feet padding to the door.
"Who's there?" the soft voice from inside questioned.
She was there on the other side of the door; only mere inches separated them. He could hear the anxiousness in her question. Harry pulled back the hood of his cloak and answered her. "Why don't you open the door and find out."
The door flew open at his words and she was there, standing in front of him, her long fiery hair spilling about her shoulders, tears filling her beautiful brown eyes. They stood there staring at one another for what seemed an eternity: he in the cold of the world he wanted so desperately to leave behind and she in the warmth of the world he needed.
She stood there, frozen in place, her breath caught in her chest, praying that what was standing before her was really there. She could not handle herself if it were not true. She had nearly fainted when he had finally spoken to her in his soft calm voice.
"Hello, love… I'm home."
With his words her paralysis had broken. She was on him in an instant showering him in kisses, trying to undo the time they had been apart. He was here… he was really here.
The feel of her in his arms was glorious, her flowery aroma numbed his senses. In that split second he knew what her answer would be as well as what needed to be done next.
Still holding her in his arms, Harry stepped into the Burrow and closed the door behind him. He took a moment to survey the room around him. The Weasley's traditional Christmas tree stood in the corner; everyone he loved was there. Ron and Hermione were sitting in between Mr. and Mrs. Weasley holding hands and apparently sharing the news of their relationship. Moony and Tonks were standing arm-in-arm next to the fireplace as Bill sat next to Fleur with a small golden haired boy snuggled deep in his lap. Fred and George were lying on the floor with their heads resting in the laps of Katie Bell and Angelina Johnson, and Charlie was holding hands with a beautiful witch Harry had never seen before. The moment was perfect.
Gently, he set Ginny's feet back on the floor and gazed down into her tear-glazed eyes.
To her the site of him standing there, gazing at her with those emerald green eyes, was all she needed in this world. He had come back to her like he said he would: safe and sound. He had kept his promise.
His world was perfect or at least nearly so. Harry bent down and kissed her passionately, not caring that every eye in the room was upon them. When their lips parted he whispered softly to her "I will never leave you again."
Standing there in his wool traveling cloak, a puddle of melting snow gathering at his feet, he removed his gloves and placed his hand into his pocket. Before she could react he was on his knee in front of her, his eyes never leaving hers. He removed the small treasured box from his pocket and held it out for her to take.
Her hands slid up covering her mouth to quiet her giggles as the realization of what was happening before her suddenly hit home. Her tears were flowing as she removed the box from Harry's hand; her fingers were trembling as she opened it. A small gasp escaped her lips as the lights from the Christmas tree reflected off the diamond inside.
Harry smiled up at the woman he loved, knowing that every second of his entire life had led up to this single moment.
"I love you, Ginevra Molly Weasley. I would be the happiest wizard on earth if you would be my wife."
As she handed the box back to him she could see the look of shock on his face and giggled once more as she realized what he must have been thinking. His shock was quickly replaced with a mixed look of joy and relief as she slowly nodded her head in agreement and held out her hand for him to place the ring on her finger.
Harry removed his mother's ring from its resting place and slipped it over Ginny's finger. He was amazed at how well it fit the petite hand now held in his.
The silence of the room around them broke into cheers of congratulations and catcalls as Harry found himself pulled into a great crushing bear hug by Moony. The rest of the evening was spent recalling tales of their adventures, during which time Ginny's hand never left his. It was early in the morning hours when Mrs. Weasley had finally chased them all off to their rooms; she had not even protested when Ginny had led him into her bedroom and closed the door behind them.
Harry lay there in the darkness of Ginny's bedroom; the love of his life snuggled tightly against him sleeping peacefully, gazing out the window at the world he had left behind. Somewhere out there, wizards and witches were celebrating, raising their glasses to the boy who had released their world once again from the grip of evil. But Harry did not care about that. Everything he had ever wanted or needed was right there beside him, and would be for the rest of his life. There was no more worry of a haunted past or an uncertain future, only the promise of a life he had scarcely ever allowed himself to dream could ever exist. It was the first night in a very long time that he could remember looking foreword to seeing what the following morning would bring.