Old Love by TheHallowsInMe31



Summary: 10-year-old Willow Young had always been warned of the house at the end of the lane along with its mysterious occupant. But still, she found herself drawn to the house and the old man with sad green eyes that lived inside.
Rating: PG-13 starstarstarstarstar
Categories: Alternate Universe
Characters: None
Genres: None
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Published: 2022.05.30
Updated: 2022.06.21


Index

Chapter 1: Curious by Nature
Chapter 2: Learning the Truth
Chapter 3: Meeting the Youngs
Chapter 4: Willow Turns 11
Chapter 5: Ginny's Secret
Chapter 6: Harry the Denialist
Chapter 7: A Different Young in the Garden
Chapter 8: Harry's Surprise Birthday
Chapter 9: Meet Me in the Middle of Your Story
Chapter 10: The Epilogue


Chapter 1: Curious by Nature

Author's Notes: My 1st story started since 2010 under a new penname. Hope people enjoy. Feedback whether good or bad is always appreciated.


Chapter 1: Curious by Nature


10-year-old Willow Young had always been warned of the house at the end of the lane along with its mysterious occupant by all the other kids on her block. She lived in the village of Ottery St. Catchpole on a dead-end street. The houses were spaced far enough apart that you would have to yell to get your neighbor's attention but not so far apart as to give off the appearance of living in the middle of nowhere. It wasn't what one would consider country living, but it was better than living in the town square.

Willow enjoyed where she lived. Her parents had moved them there after her baby brother was born. Her mum said it was because they had needed the extra space but Willow knew it was because her mum hated living in the center of London. Her father didn't care as long as her mum was happy. He was lovey-dovey like that.

She spent many days just riding her bike around and playing with the other kids on the block exploring the almost-countryside. When she moved, she had been scared that friends would be hard to make but everyone here seemed nice. It was quiet living and it suited her family just fine.

She was almost sad that after this summer everything would change. Her mum and dad would be sending her to a boarding school in Scotland. She had grown up knowing what Hogwarts School was of course since her whole family had gone there for as many generations back as she could remember. She still had 2 months though to enjoy the quiet and friendships that she had gained over the past couple of years.

Her mind was brought back to the old man in the house at the end of the lane.

He was a recluse that kept to himself. She had never seen him leave his property and never seemed to get visitors. He had no family that she was aware of. When she had first moved here and had gone riding her bike with the first friend that she had met, Olivia had warned her not to go onto the man's property. For some reason, Willow was inexplicably drawn to the house every time she passed it but heeded her friend's warning.

She had caught glimpses of the occupant. She sometimes caught him in the garden tending to his flowers or looking out the window as she and her friends had passed by on bikes. His face, however, was always turned away from her or hidden in shadows.

When she had asked all her friends why they never attempted to cross his property they had all explained that they had felt a creepy feeling, like someone was watching them when they had tried before and therefore, had stopped attempting it.

"Hey Willow," Olivia said, "Me and Noah have to head home. Mum wanted us home by six for supper. Wanna ride home with us?"

"Nah," she replied turning to her two friends, "My family eats a little later and I'd like to keep riding for a while."

"Alright," Noah said as he peddled to the other side of her, "We'll see you tomorrow, yeah?"

"Definitely," she replied with a grin.

She watched as her friends rode away, they only lived a mile down the road, and continued on her way. She kept riding, passing all the houses, and enjoying the cool summer breeze as it whipped around her body.

One thing she was looking forward to when she attended Hogwarts was Quidditch. Riding a broom in general seemed like fun. She had only ridden once or twice when she had snuck her dad's old broom from the shed. She had been scolded something fierce by her mum talking about how much she could've been hurt but she hadn't missed her dad's beaming smile that he tried to hide. Riding a bike was fun and freeing but she just figured flying a broom would be even more so.

So lost in her thoughts, she didn't see the rut in the road until it was too late.

Her front tire hit the rut, her bike pitched forwards, and before she could stop herself, she went flying head-first over the handlebars.

She landed hard on her side. She heard a popping sound as she landed and her ankle immediately radiated pain to the rest of her body. She cried out as tears threatened to escape from her eyes. She looked over at her bike and saw the front had dented into the tire.

I guess I'll need a new bike then, she thought.

It seemed silly to think about her bike when she was almost certain her ankle was broken and she didn't know how she was going to get home. Her home was farther away than Olivia and Noah's.

She looked up and was surprised to see herself in front of the old man's house at the end of the lane. Even more surprising still was the fact that he saw the old man himself walking towards her at an astonishing rate of speed for one so old.

"Are you okay miss?" he asked in a worried tone as he reached her, "I saw you take a nasty tumble off that bike."

"I wasn't paying attention," she said embarrassingly, "I'm pretty sure my ankle is broken. I can't move it."

"Well let's see if we can't get you fixed up then," he replied, "I use to be a doctor before I retired. Would it bother you if I carried you or would you like to use my shoulder and try to walk yourself?"

Surprised that he had even asked she replied, "It would be quicker if you carried me. It hurts so bad."

"Alright," he said with a smile as he scooped her up into his arms with surprising strength, "Here we go."

As he started walking, Willow took this time to study the old man. His timeworn face had wrinkles in it. He looked as if he didn't see enough sunlight. His skin was pale but not unhealthily so. His hair was short with a salt and pepper tint to it. She had noticed however that when he smiled, the years seemed to drop off of his face and he looked younger. It was as if he didn't smile enough. His eyes though were the most striking feature. Even through his glasses, they shined a bright jade green. Even at 10 years old, Willow could see that his eyes had seen much. He had an old faded scar on his forehead but she couldn't make out the shape.

He carried her up his porch steps and sat her down gently on an old porch swing.

"Let me go inside and get a couple of things and see what we can do about that ankle of yours," he said.

"Okay," she replied softly.

Once the man had gone, she thought back to her friends' warnings about the old man in the house at the end of the lane. He didn't seem dangerous or creepy. On the contrary, for some unknown reason, she felt completely safe around him. He felt like an old friend.

Her foot throbbed and she looked down at it. A nasty purple and yellow bruise was starting to form. She knew her mum could fix it right up with a spell and give her a potion for the pain but her curiosity over the old man outweighed the pain in her foot.

He came back outside with a small suitcase-shaped object and sat it down next to her.

"Would you mind taking your shoe and sock off so I can get a better look miss...?"

"My name is Willow Young," I replied as I slowly slid off my shoe and sock.

"Well Willow," he said with a smile, "You're an extremely brave girl. Most kids would be crying right now."

"My mum and dad say that all the time," she said and as the old man looked confused she added, "I'm really clumsy. I get hurt a lot."

He gently and tenderly felt around her ankle before exclaiming, "It's not broken, only dislocated. Although I'm sure it still hurts just as much."

"It's no picnic," she replied and the old man laughed softly.

"No I suppose it's not," he replied.

I'm going to have to reset your ankle," he said, "If you'd rather me phone up your mum or dad and they can take you to a hospital you can do that instead."

"I trust you," she replied simply.

The man looked surprised for a second before saying, "Okay then. This will hurt so you better not look down."

She looked up at the ceiling just as she heard the old man mutter something under his breath.

She felt a pop and she yelped. Her head jerked down just in time to see the old man stuff something hastily in his pocket but she didn't get a glimpse of what it was.

There you go," he replied as he wrapped the ankle in bandages, "It'll still be sore for a while but the bone is back in place."

"Thank you," she replied and true to his word, her ankle was sore.

"You know when I was younger I was just like you," the man said with a laugh, "I went to a private school and I was in the school's hospital wing every year."

"So you're clumsy like me?" Willow asked.

"You could say that," he replied with a laugh.

Willow liked it when the old man laughed. She had a feeling he didn't laugh enough.

"I think we should phone your parents now and let them know where you are so they don't worry don't you?" the man said

"Um mister," she replied, "My family doesn't have a phone. They're pretty stone-age."

"Hmm," the man said, "Well how far do you live? I could drive you down the road."

"It's not far," she replied, "Like two miles down the road."

"Alright then let me go get my keys and I'll take you home," he said as he stood up from his crouched position.

He reached inside the door to grab his keys off of what she figured was a key hook and shut it. He disappeared into the garage. As she heard a vehicle start she stood up, careful not to put too much pressure on her injured ankle, and hobbled over to the rails.

He backed out of the garage as she made her way down the steps, assisted by the rail in her hands, and slowly walked over to the car.

He got out and held the passenger side door open for her where she climbed inside before shutting the door.

He got back in on his side and the car started moving backwards.

"So what's the worst injury you've ever had," she asked trying to break the silence. Not that he was out of his house he seemed on edge, almost fearful.

"Oh well one day I was on the school roof," he replied, "Me and my friends were big into dares you see and I was dared to get onto the roof. Well me being as clumsy as I am fell off and I broke 2 ribs, my arm in 4 different places, and I got a concussion."

"Wow," she replied, "That must have hurt.

"It was no picnic," he replied using her earlier words.

"This is it," she said as the man slowed to a stop.

"Alright," the old man said, "I want you to go in and tell your parents what happened. They might still want to take you to the hospital."

"You're not going with me?" she asked, "I'm sure they'd like to meet you. You helped me after all."

"I'm uh, "he said uneasily, "I'm not so good around people. I'm sure everyone that lives around here has noticed by now that I don't get out much."

"Yeah when I moved here 2 years ago everyone warned me to stay away from the house at the end of the lane," she replied.

The old man chuckled, "My reputation precedes me I see."

Willow smiled before opening the door, "Thank you for fixing my ankle. I'll leave you so you can go back to doing whatever hermits do."

"You're very welcome, "the old man replied with a laugh.

"Hold up," she said, "What do I even call you. I never got your name."

"That's because I never told you my name," the old man said.

He looked like he was debating something before finally saying, "You can call me Harry."

"Well thanks again Harry," she said with a wave as she shut the door. She watched as he turned around and drove back the way they had come before she started hobbling to the steps of her house lost in thought.

{--------------}{-----------}

After she had told her mum and dad what had happened and about the old man that had helped her, and after checking to make sure the man had indeed fixed her ankle, her dad gave her a potion to ease the pain.

"You should've come straight home," her mum said, "We could've fixed it up instantly."

"He was a doctor mum," Willow said with an exasperated sigh, "He knew what he was doing."

Willow heard a pop and another pop shortly after but chalked it up to a car backfiring down the road.

She didn't want to tell them that when he set her ankle back in place, she hadn't felt his hands on her foot or ankle at all. She had also heard him mumble under his breath and tuck something back into his jeans. The more she thought about it, the more she was convinced.

The old man was a wizard.

He had to be. There was no other explanation as to how he fixed her foot without even touching it.

Dinner was amazing as always. Her mum was an excellent cook. Her grandmum was better and even better than her grandmum, was her great grandmum. All the women in her family knew how to cook and each generation was better the further you went back. She hoped one day that she would be just as good a cook as her great grandmum was. She was already teaching her how. According to her, as long as you could cook, you would always keep your man happy, not that Willow cared about such things. She was only 10 years old after all. But one day, maybe one day she could please a family of her own with good food.

"Hey Willow," her dad said from the front door, "I thought you said that your bike was ruined and that you left it at the end of the lane?"

"I did," she replied as she got up to walk to the door, "The front was all smashed into the tire."

Her dad gestured outside as she reached the front door and her mouth opened in shock.

There, right before her steps, was her bike, never having looked like she had just wrecked it.

"Oh," she said in amazement, "the old man must have fixed it and brought it back."

"Well be sure to thank him if you ever see him again," her dad said as he closed the door.

"I doubt I will," she replied, "He's a hermit."

"Indeed," her father said.

She went up to her room still thinking about Harry who she was now convinced was a wizard. There was no way he had fixed her bike that quick without magic.

She would just ask him next time she saw him... if she saw him again.

And with that thought, she fell asleep.

{--------}{--------}


Down the road, inside his house, the old man sat in a chair staring at a picture of a beautiful woman in her 20s with vibrant red hair and chocolate brown eyes. Eyes that reminded him strikingly of the 10-year-old girl he had just helped.

Back to index


Chapter 2: Learning the Truth

Willow had not seen Harry the rest of the week nor the following week and was beginning to worry something might have happened to him. Every day she would ride her bike past his house and back hoping to catch him in his garden or looking out a window but he was nowhere to be seen.

She had told Olivia and Noah about what had transpired after she had wrecked her bike. They had stared as she talked, open-mouthed with surprise, as she relayed the events of that day. They couldn't believe that the creepy old man that lived in the house at the end of the lane was so helpful and nice.

She had tried to get her friends to walk up to the house with her to peek in the windows to see if Harry was inside but they refused, stating that when they attempted, they felt the hairs on the back of their necks stand up and felt a sudden urge to turn around and go back home. She was wondering now, since she was almost certain that Harry was a wizard, if it was because her 2 friends were muggles and he had muggle repelling charms on his house. It would make sense seeing how recluse he was.

She had no proof though and the longer she went without answers, the more determined she became to get them. She had always been an inquisitive and curious child by nature and once she set her mind to something, she would not give up until she got what she wanted.

Her mum had always said she would make a great journalist or reporter but even Willow knew those were less than noble professions. She could still remember her grandmum complaining about a woman named Rita Skeeter from back in her Hogwarts days who would make up lies about the people she wrote about and try to ruin their lives. She had then gone on to rant and rave about how journalists and reporters had no common decency or a sense of decorum. Willow knew her grandmum and her friends had grown up in the 2nd wizarding war which might have played a part in it but no, she did not think it prudent to become a journalist one day. She didn't fancy being disowned by her grandmum.

The next Saturday following her run-in with Harry dawned bright and warm which pleased Willow just fine as it had rained the previous 2 days and she had not been able to ride her bike with her friends or drive-by Harry's house to check on him. She instead had gone to her great grandmum's house to help out with chores and learn more culinary skills.

After getting dressed for the day, she took the stairs two at a time down to the kitchen to grab some toast before setting off on her bike.

"Good Willow you're up," her mum said as she bounded into the kitchen, "I need you to go get me some more milk from town today."

"What, why?" she asked, "You can apparate there and back in like 30 seconds. Why would you need me to get it?"

"Willow dear don't argue with your mother and do as you're told please," her father said over the top of the morning paper.

She stuck her tongue out at her father who was buried behind the paper again not paying attention before walking out of the kitchen with her toast.

She collected her bike from the shed and started making her way into town still munching on her toast.

Her birthday was in 2 weeks, on July 30th, and would be expecting her Hogwart's letter shortly after. Ever since learning of Hogwarts she always wondered what house she would be in. Her mum had said basically everyone in the family had been in Gryffindor except for her dad who had been a Hufflepuff. She honestly didn't care either way as long as she wasn't thrown into Slytherin. Not that she cared about that but she didn't want to give her granduncle a heart attack. Sixty something odd years out of Hogwarts and he still held onto the rivalry that his house had had with Slytherin.

Her mum of course told her not to listen to her granduncle instead saying that no matter what house she was put into, they would always support her.

She made it into town and to the store to buy the milk before making her way over to the stone monument in the center of town.

It had been built at the end of the Second Wizarding World after the defeat of Voldemort. Any muggles that passed by would just see a regular old wishing fountain. Willow liked to stop by and look at it every time she came into town.

The marble slabs built into the water fountain were a beautiful dark black with white veins running throughout. It had a list of all the people that had died during that time.

She threw a knut into the water fountain before hopping back on her bike and heading home.

She often wondered what it had been like to grow up during the war. Her granduncle and aunt would tell her some things but nothing not suitable for children, and her grandmum outright refused to talk about it at all.

They had said that her grandmum had lost a lot more than family members during the war and she had never truly gotten over it.

Maybe that's why she's so uptight, Willow thought as she reached her front yard.

"Mum! I'm back!" Willow yelled as she walked back into her house.

She walked to the kitchen to put the milk in the fridge before turning to her dad, "Where's mum?"

"Oh she got called into work," her dad said as he tried to coax Liam into eating some of the eggs on his plate, "One of her patients went into labor so we might not see her the rest of the day."

Willow nodded at her dad. Her mom helped deliver babies at St. Mungos and absolutely loved her job.

"Well, I'm gonna go out and ride for a little bit more if that's okay?" she said

"That's fine honey just be careful," her dad said.

"I'm always careful," Willow said with a grin to which her dad laughed.

She went back outside, got on her bike, and took off down the road towards Harry's house.

Maybe she would be able to see him today. The questions that plagued her mind over him since he had fixed her ankle bothered her somewhat.

She really wished she knew what a nice old man like him was doing all alone living as a hermit at the end of a dead-end road. Perhaps he had lost everyone in the war. He looked to be about the same age as his grandmum so it was entirely possible. Willow hoped that wasn't the case though. The war had been 63 years ago. What kind of life must he have led in 63 years of solitude.

She rolled up to Harry's house, and to her surprise, found him hunched over in his garden.

She parked her bike on the side of the road and quietly walked up his drive. She had almost reached him when without even turning around he spoke up, " Good morning Miss Young."

She froze rooted to the spot, "How did y.. how did you know it was me? Do you have eyes in the back of your head?"

"Not quite," he said turning around to face her, "I just used the deductive power of reasoning. I heard you walk up and you're the only person that's been in my yard in the last 8 years. I just figured it was you. You're the only person I know brave enough to try to talk to the strange old man that lives in the house at the end of the lane."

"Yeah well you're not that scary once you nurse someone's dislocated ankle and take care of them," Willow said.

"True," he said with a half-grin, "I need to get back on that. I have an image to uphold after all."

"What are you doing anyway?" she asked.

"I'm re-planting flowers," he said as he moved out of the way to show her, "I'm moving the flowers from their pots to the flowerbed now that their first leaves have sprouted."

When he moved, Willow saw the infant sunflowers.

"Hey sunflowers are my grandmum's favorite flower," she exclaimed.

"Your grandmum has good taste then," Harry replied with a smile.

"Are they your favorite too?" she asked, "I mean they must be, you have so many of them."

Harry chuckled, "Yeah I enjoy sunflowers. They remind me of someone I used to know that was rather important to me."

Surprised at his overshare, she said, "Would you like any help? I'm not doing anything and I'd love to help. It can't be all that easy for you at your age."

"Hey!" he said in an affronted tone, "I'll have you know I'm just as spry now as I was when I was a teenager."

"Oh really?" she asked with a raised eyebrow, "Race me to the road and back then."

Harry laughed, "Just because I can doesn't mean I'm going to."

"Chicken," she said sticking out her tongue as he handed her a trowel.

He smiled that smile that let the vestiges of time slip off his face and for a moment Willow swore she had seen tears in his eyes.

They worked diligently re-planting the sunflowers while they made small talk. She was surprised at how easy it was to fall into conversation with Harry as he looked like he was 70 years older than her.

Every so often she looked up from her work to look into his eyes, eyes which were filled with a sense of sadness she hadn't noticed before. This was a man who was used to hiding his feelings and probably had no one to talk to about them.

"All done," she said as she pushed her strawberry blonde hair out of her face to wipe the sweat from her brow.

"Excellent," he said standing up, "Would you like anything to drink?" Water, lemonade, tea?"

"I wouldn't say no to some lemonade right now," she said with a grin.

"Alright you can wait on the porch if you'd like," he said as he got up and walked into the house.

Willow set on the same porch swing she had sat on when he had fixed her ankle.

She wasn't a big fan of manual labor but found that she had fun today replanting the sunflowers and talking to Harry.

He came back out and handed her a glass of lemonade before sitting down in a chair with his own glass.

"Can I ask you a personal question?" she asked suddenly.

"You can," he replied, "But that doesn't mean I'll necessarily answer you."

"How come you're all alone?" she asked quietly.

It had been one of the questions that she had desperately wanted to ask him since she started questioning about the old man that lived at the end of the lane.

Harry looked surprised like he had been completely caught off-guard at her question.

"Hmm," he said, "I'm afraid that's one thing I won't be able to tell you Willow."

"Aww c'mon," she said, "What could I possibly do, judge you? I'm a 10-year-old girl."

"Worse," he replied, "You could pity me and I don't want anyone's pity."

"Why would I pity you?" she asked, "Is the reason why you're all alone your fault?"

He looked down at his weathered hands before whispering, "Yes."

"Then I promise not to judge you or pity you," she replied simply.

Willow could see the tenseness in his face, the abstract fear in his eyes, as if opening up to someone would cause him physical pain.

He took a steady breath before saying, "I've been in love with the same woman since I was 16 years old."

"Well that's good then isn't it? she asked, "You found true love?"

"I found it alright," he said sadly, "I wasn't smart enough to keep it."

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"Well when I was a teenager there was a war going on and I was fighting in it, right in the middle of it to be honest," Harry said, "And that put a big target on my head and anyone else who associated with me were also targeted. I had broken it off with the woman I loved right before the war really broke out to try to protect her. I told myself if I kept her at a distance then she wouldn't be specifically targeted just because she was associated with me. I left her with the promise that when the war was over I would come back. I didn't ask her to wait for me because that would've been selfish on my part so I just promised I would find my way back to her when it was all over."

"Did she die?" Willow asked.

"No," Harry said, "She survived the war thank god. But by the time the war was over I was pretty messed up. I was in no state to be coming back and demanding a relationship from her. I had lost a lot of people in the war and it sent me into a really dark place for a long time."

He looked towards the sun and she could see the pain in his eyes at reliving the memories as he continued, "By the time I was stable enough to come back to her it was too late. She had moved on. I don't blame her, not one bit. I left her alone and she got over me. She ended up marrying someone else."

"And I'm guessing you regret it?" Willow asked.

"I can still remember the date that I broke things off with her," Harry said sadly, "And not a day has gone by since then that I haven't felt regret at how things turned out. I'm haunted by how things might have played out differently had I been more willing to listen to her and my friends telling me my reasons were foolish. And they were foolish. I've had many years to see this and to come to terms with it."

Harry went quiet, eyes still unfocused, as he stared off into the distance replaying a memory that only he could see.

Boldened by his confession, she stood up and walked over to him before placing her hand on his.

His eyes opened wide in surprise and jerked down to her hand on his as she spoke, "Just because you've lived a life of regret doesn't mean it always has to be that way. You can make new memories you know. Ones that aren't so painful."

"10 years old," he said quietly, "You're 10 years old and already wiser than I could ever hope to be."

"Mum says I take after grandmum," Willow said taking her hand off his, "She was really smart too."

"Smart and likes sunflowers," he said with a small smile, "Your grandmum sounds like a good person."

"She's the best grandmum anyone could ever ask for," Willow said proudly.

They fell into a comfortable silence as Willow sat back down on the porch swing and finished off her lemonade.

She thought back to everything he had told her. He had been in a war when he was younger. He was roughly the same age as her grandmum. Her theory of him being a wizard now seemed more probable than improbable.

"Can I ask you one more question?" She asked, "It's a rather odd question but I feel like you can give me an answer to it."

"Shoot," Harry replied.

"Are you a wizard?"

His face whipped around to hers as he stared at her in astonishment. She had caught him off guard with the comment and Willow figured he didn't know what to say. She tried to read the expression on his face but couldn't.

Finally, he replied, "And what makes you ask a question like that?"

"It's just you're so mysterious," she started, "Not to mention when you fixed my ankle, except for when you were first looking at it, you never even touched it. When I looked down, you were stuffing something back into your waistband. You also fixed my bike which shouldn't have even been possible unless you were magical."

"And you believe in magic?" He asked her warily

"Of course I believe in magic," Willow replied, "Magic is all around us. You just have to know where to look. It's kind of like miracles that way."

"Well I've never really believed in miracles before," he said sadly.

"So are you?" she asked excitedly, "You are, aren't you? I can tell."

"How can you tell?" he asked.

She was so convinced that he was a wizard she didn't even think twice about how much trouble she would be in if she were wrong or about replying, "Because I'm magical too."

His eyes opened wide, "You're a... You're a witch?"

"Yep," she replied happily, "My birthday is in two weeks and then I'll get my letter to go study in Scotland at Hogwarts."

"Hogwarts," Harry said wistfully, "I haven't been there in so long."

Willow stood up, "I should be getting back. My dad is probably wondering where I am."

"Alright," Harry said, "Thanks for the help with my sunflowers."

"You're welcome," she said, "I'll be back tomorrow to help out with your garden again."

She started walking back down his lawn before she stopped and turned to him.

"You said you don't believe in miracles but I find that hard to believe," she said, "You found true love, and if true love isn't a miracle, I don't know what is."

{--------}{--------}

Later on that night at the dinner table, Willow finally decided to speak to her parents about Harry.

"Mum, Dad," Willow said turning to her parents, "I want to invite Harry to my birthday."

They both looked nonplussed until her dad decided to voice their confusion, "Harry? Who is Harry?"

"He's the old man that lives at the house on the end of the lane," and when they still looked confused, she added, "The one who fixed up my ankle and my bike."

"We don't even know him, sweetie," her mum said, "He could be dangerous for all we know."

"Besides," her dad spoke up, "It's not proper for an 11-year-old to have a friend that old."

"But mum!" she exclaimed, "He's so lonely. He doesn't have anyone. No family of his own. I'm not even sure if he celebrates holidays."

"I love how big your heart is and how much you want to help people but I just don't think it's a good idea," her mum said.

"I should be able to invite who I want to my party," she said heatedly.

"Willow Audrey Young!" her father said, "We said no and that's fin..."

"He's a wizard!" she yelled interrupting her dad.

The silence around the table was deafening.

"He's a wizard," she repeated, "And he fought in the war. That one with the Voldemort dude. And I know some of our family also fought in that war. He's been sad and lonely for so long, I just wanted to invite him to see if he knew anyone from back then."

"And how do you know this?" her dad asked.

"He told me after I confronted him about it," she said trying to control her anger, "Remember my bike? It was completely ruined and then it just popped back up in front of the house an hour later looking brand new. He fixed my ankle without even touching it."

"Hmm," her dad said, "What do you think Lily dear?"

"I think," Lily said, "If you can get him to come over here and meet us just so we can make sure he's safe then I guess we can allow him to come to your party."

"Oh thank you thank you!" she said happily as she shot up from the table and gave both her parents a hug before running out of the kitchen and up the stairs to her room.

She decided she would ask Harry when she helped him with his garden tomorrow. She wouldn't tell him why. He was a recluse and she didn't know if the idea of potentially seeing anyone from his past would upset him.

Willow couldn't help but think this was one of the best ideas she had ever had.

Back to index


Chapter 3: Meeting the Youngs

"Let me get this straight," Harry said to her the next day when she had shown up to help him in his garden, "You want me to meet your parents?"

"Yep!" Willow said.

"Um, why?" he asked, "I don't know if you know this, but I'm not good around people."

"All the more reason to come," she replied with a smile, "You don't get out much and you need to start. Meeting my parents is a small step. It's just me, Liam, mum, and dad so it's not like it's a bunch of people. Besides, they want to meet you. I'm sure they are grateful for you patching me up when I fell on my bike."

"I'm pretty sure they want to make sure I'm not some sort of creep since you come over every day," Harry said with a laugh, "It is a little strange that you'd rather spend your time with someone so old."

"I have fun talking to you though," Willow said, "You're like the grandad I never had."

"You don't have a grandad?" he asked in a surprised tone, "Everyone has a grandad."

"Not one that I can remember," Willow said as she moved down the flowerbed, "Grandmum doesn't ever talk about it."

"Oh, I see," Harry replied.

Willow turned to look at him to see Harry lost in thought. He did that often. He was probably remembering days long gone with his own family and friends. He hadn't opened up to her anymore since she helped with his sunflowers but hopefully, she could get him out of his shell. She didn't know why it was so important to her to get Harry to confide in her and talk about his past. Maybe she just felt like he needed a friend. Maybe, in some small way, she did feel pity for him, although she would never admit that to him. She had known Harry for all of two weeks and her heart already bled for the old man.

"Think of it as one of my birthday presents," she said, breaking him out of his trance.

"Oh you just automatically assume I'm going to get you a gift for your birthday are you? he asked with a chuckle.

"Well duh," she replied in a playful tone, "I'm your friend. You're only friend by the looks of it. You don't want to upset me by not getting me a present."

"Miss Young," Harry laughed, "Are you trying to blackmail me for a birthday present?"

"Yep," she said not even trying to look embarrassed.

"Alright, I'll go," he said and when she looked excited added, "But just a dinner. Being around people truly is emotionally draining for me so I won't be able to stay long."

Willow squealed, dropped her trowel, and before Harry could react, ran over and wrapped her arms around him.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you," she said excitedly.

Willow knew she had startled him with the hug but honestly didn't care. He needed out of his seclusion.

He patted her back awkwardly before she stepped away.

"How do you have so much energy?" he asked in awe, "It's astounding and slightly overbearing."

Willow laughed, "I'm 10 years old. I'm supposed to have energy. You mean to tell me you weren't like this at my age?"

Harry avoided her eyes, " I um, didn't have the greatest childhood. My parents died before I could even remember them so I was sent to live with my aunt and uncle. They weren't very nice."

"What does that have to do with having too much energy?" she asked cocking her head to the side.

"Well you see, " Harry started still avoiding her eyes, "If I showed any type of positive emotion that usually ticked them off pretty bad and I'd get locked in my room under the stairs without food."

"They starved you? she asked horrified, "That's terrible."

"It wasn't that bad," Harry shrugged at her, "The beatings were worse."

"They hit you too?" she asked, "What horrible people. Wait did you say your bedroom under the stairs?"

"Yeah," he replied grimly. I slept in a cupboard under the stairs until I was eleven."

Willow was shocked. He had been physically and mentally abused by the people that were supposed to be caring for him. She knew evil people existed in the world but she hadn't ever wanted to believe that people could do that to a child.

"They were scared of me and what I could do," Harry said, "They were terrified that I was magical, they were muggles you see, and they were scared something would disrupt the perfect little family they had. So they tried to beat the magic out of me."

Noticing the horrified look on her face he continued, "I'm sorry for describing it so vividly. I shouldn't be talking about this with you. You are too young for things of this nature."

"It's okay," she said hiding her shock and anger at the people who had turned his childhood into a nightmare behind a mask of indifference, "I'm glad you told me."

"I don't even know why I did," Harry said, "I guess you're just easy to talk to. 10-year-olds don't judge you."

"When was the last time you just hung out with someone or made small talk with a human being?" she asked

She watched as he scratched his head like he was trying to remember something before saying, "I don't remember."

"That long huh?" she asked

Harry looked sheepish, "Yeah it's been a while."

Each time Willow learned something new about Harry, she was reinforced in her belief that she had been meant to find Harry. He was a lost soul and she was going to make it her mission to help him find his way.

"Can you tell me more about the war?" she asked as she changed topics, " Some people in my family talk about it but never when I'm around."

"Hmm I don't know if that would be appropriate," he said, "War isn't something kids should have to hear and learn about. Especially this war. It wasn't pretty."

"Oh, okay," she said in a defeated voice, "How about you tell me of this mystery girl you've been in love with since you were 16."

Let's put the tools up first," he replied with a laugh, "I can only kneel down for so long."

"Okay old man let's go put up the tools," she said with a grin.

After the gardening tools had been put up and Willow was sitting on the porch swing sipping a glass of lemonade, Harry turned to her.

"I saw her for the 1st time when I was 11 years old," he said with a smile.

"I was trying to figure out how to get onto platform 9 3/4. I had not been told how. I had to wait for a family to walk by that seemed like they were heading to the same place I was. She was only 10 at the time so she wasn't going to Hogwarts that year. I became best friends with her brother and he told me all about how she had had this huge crush on me since she was like 5 years old or something. She would always do embarrassing things whenever I was around like put her elbow in the butter dish or drop stuff she had been holding. She sent me a rather embarrassing singing valentine's day card during my 2nd year at Hogwarts. In my 3rd year, I fell from my broom during a quidditch match and had been layed up in the hospital wing. She showed up again with a singing card she had made herself."

"Wait you mean to tell me you weren't dating by that point?" Willow asked inquisitively?

"Well at the time girls really didn't interest me," Harry said with a laugh, " I was only 13. Sadly, I didn't realize I had feelings for her for almost 3 more years. Another one of my many regrets I suppose. If only I had noticed her when we met, we would've had more time together than we had."

"That makes sense," she replied. She understood all too well. She couldn't be bothered by boys and probably wouldn't for a long time.

"Something you have to know about me Willow," Harry said, "I didn't have a great childhood. When I started Hogwarts I made friends and found a family who took me in as their own child. I was happy but still, something was always missing."

"The girl you loved?" she asked.

"Indeed," he replied, "When I first kissed her, It's like all the puzzle pieces finally seemed to fit together. The part of me that was empty was suddenly filled."

"But you broke up with her," Willow said

It was not a question but a statement.

"Yes," Harry replied looking down at his feet, "It still haunts me to this day. If I hadn't, I do not doubt that we'd be married right now spoiling our grandkids crazy. I wouldn't be this recluse with no friends."

"Well, I'm your friend," Willow said

Harry looked at her before replying, "I think you just might be."

I should be going now," she said as she stood up, "Do me a favor?"

"What would that be?" Harry asked her.

"I need you to try and believe in miracles," she said, "If two people are meant to be together, then somehow, some way, they'll find their way back to each other. No matter how long it takes."

{--------}{--------}


Willow was running around frantically trying to make sure everything was in order. Harry was set to arrive any minute. She didn't know why but it was important for her parents to like him or else they might decide that she could no longer associate with him.

After she had left Harry's house, she had went and rode her bike with Noah and Olivia. They had asked more questions about Harry and she had shrugged her shoulders to most of them. Now that Harry was talking to her about personal things she didn't feel like giving up his secrets. She felt like he wouldn't enjoy that too much and to her, it felt like a breach of trust. He had confided in her details of his life. Details she wasn't sure if anyone else in the world knew. No, she wouldn't betray that trust.

She set the table quickly as her mother finished up the rest of the cooking.

"Willow honey," her mum said teasingly, "Are you going to have company over with your hair looking like that?"

Willow ran over to the small mirror on the fridge and froze. Her hair was frizzy after her shower and it stuck out in random places.

"Bugger," she said, "I need to go brush my hair really quick.

She ran out of the kitchen not even hearing her dad's chuckles as she took the steps 2 at a time to her room.

She threw herself down in front of her mirror, pulled out a hairbrush from a drawer, and began pulling it through her hair as fast as she could without ripping her hair out. She didn't know why she was so nervous honestly. Harry didn't care what she looked like. She always had to look her best for company though. She had always been that way.

She heard the doorbell ring and jumped up. What if her parents didn't like him? What if they said he couldn't be her friend anymore?

She bounded down the stairs, almost running into the wall in the hallway before she stopped.

She gave herself time to catch her breath before making her way to the front door and opening it.

Harry stood there looking slightly uncomfortable in jeans and a t-shirt.

"Come on in," she said as he stepped inside slowly, "Mum was just finishing up dinner."

He looked around as if trying to find escape routes and she added, "Don't be nervous. It's just the three of us. Liam is with a babysitter."

He relaxed slightly but still seemed to be on edge.

She led him down the hall and into the kitchen where her mum was turned towards the sink and her father was already sitting at the table.

"Mum, Dad," Willow announced, "This is Harry."

Her dad stood up and moved over to them to shake Harry's hand but before he got to them, her mother turned around.

Willow heard a sharp gasp and her dad stopped suddenly. She turned to see Harry, his arms shaking and face as white as a sheet. Before anyone could say anything, Harry turned on his heel and walked out.

"I'll be right back," she said as she bolted out of the room after him.

For an old man, he was surprisingly fast she thought.

She caught up to him as he stepped out onto her porch.

She put her hand on his arm and he stopped.

"Harry, what's wrong?" she questioned."

"It's. She," he stuttered.

"Take a second," she said to him, "Breathe, calm down."

They stood like that for the next minute, Willow's hand on his arm, as he tried to compose himself.

Finally, he turned to her, "I'm sorry," he said quietly, "Your mum surprised me."

"Huh?" Willow said, "What are you going on about?"

Your mother," he replied, "She looks like someone I used to know. Someone that I haven't seen in a long time. Someone who I lost."

"Oh!" Willow said in surprise, "And to you, it was like looking at a ghost?"

"Yes," he replied, "I'm sorry."

"No need to be sorry," she said, "Are you okay to go back inside?"

"Yeah, I think so," he said.

He followed her back inside and to the kitchen where her father and mother were now conversing in whispers by the table.

Upon their reentrance, they both stopped their conversation and turned to Harry and her.

"I apologize for my hasty exit and horrible manners," she heard Harry say in a firm tone, "You reminded me of someone from my past Mrs. Young and it startled me is all."

"That's quite alright," her mother said to Harry, "This is my husband Isaac and I'm Lily."

Harry appeared startled at the mention of her mother's name but recovered quickly and held out his hand for them to shake, "I'm Harry Evans. It's a pleasure to meet you."

"It's a pleasure to meet you as well," Lily said.

"So, Mr. Evans," Isaac said as they all sat down, "Willow here says you're a wizard. Is that true?"

Harry turned to her before looking back at her dad, "It is, although how she found out I have no idea. I guess I'm getting careless in my old age."

Her dad laughed, "Willow is very intuitive. There's not much that she doesn't pick up on."

"True," Harry said with a laugh, "Your daughter is very bright for her age."

"I'm still here you know," Willow said.

Her mum and dad laughed and Harry grinned.

"I'm sure you already knew this was coming Mr. Evans," Lily said, "But as Willow's parents we have to make sure that the people she is around aren't dangerous which is why we invited you here tonight."

Harry nodded.

Her dad spoke up again, "As I'm sure you know, it's a little odd seeing a 10-year-old girl hanging out with an older gentleman that isn't family. We just wanted to make sure that you didn't give off the wrong aura, so to speak."

"You're right," Harry said looking down at his hands and then back up, "I should've been truthful with you from the start. I understand that to put both of your minds at ease, I have to tell the whole truth. I hope after you know, you'll be able to forgive me and see why I go by Evans."

What do you mean Harry?" Willow spoke up, "What did you lie about?"

"My last name isn't Evans," Harry said, "That was my mother's maiden name."

All three looked at him in confusion before he continued, "My last name is Potter."

The silence that greeted his confession was deafening.

Willow had no idea what significance his last name held but by the looks on her parent's faces, they did. Her dad was eyeing Harry with something close to amazement and her mum's eyes had widened to the size of dinner plates.

"What does your last name have to do with anything?" Willow asked when it seemed her parents would not speak up.

"Because Willow," he said, "I'm the one who ended the war 53 years ago. I killed Voldemort."

"Wow," Willow said, "So you're like a war hero or something?"

"Something like that," he said with a smile.

"You're...You're really Harry Potter?" her dad asked

Harry nodded, "I hope you can forgive me for the deception."

"We understand," Her mum said, "Why don't we eat now and we can finish talking outside. The weather has been lovely lately."

Willow noticed all throughout dinner her mum staring at Harry when he wasn't looking around, her eyes full of sadness? Pity? Willow couldn't quite tell.

Soon after dinner, they made their way out onto the back deck.

"So Harry," Willow's dad asked as they all sat down, "Did you ever play Quidditch?"

Harry smiled, "I did. Before everything happened, I was about to join the Chudley Cannons."

"Wow," Willow said, "That's my favorite team."

Harry laughed, "They're horrid."

"Hey now," Willow said, "They're just going through a rough patch."

"For the past 200 years?" Harry laughed.

"You'll have to forgive Willow," Lily said, "Her great uncle has been brainwashing her since she was old enough to walk."

Harry laughed, "Sounds like my best friend from school. He was a cannons fanatic. Never shut up about them. That's why I considered their offer over the other 8 teams.

"You got offers from 9 out of the 13 professional quidditch teams?" Her father asked in awe, "What position did you play?"

"I was a seeker," Harry said, " I joined the house team in my 1st year. I was the youngest player in over a century. They normally wouldn't let you try out for quidditch teams in school until your second year."

"It's still like that now," Isaac said, "Wow! That's amazing."

"What about you?" Harry asked turning to Willow, "Do you like quidditch?"

"Well, I want to play one day," she replied, "But mum doesn't like the thought. Says it is dangerous or some nonsense."

"That's because it is dangerous Willow," Lily said with a frown."

"Your mum's right," Harry said, "Remember when I told you I was on top of the school roof and about all those injuries?"

Willow nodded.

"That was from a quidditch accident, Harry said, "I fell 50 feet from my broom. If the headmaster hadn't managed to slow my fall, I'd be dead right now."

"Still," Willow pouted, "I want to play. It looks so fun."

Harry grinned, "It is amazingly fun."

They talked for another 30 minutes about random things until Harry stood up.

"I must be off," Harry said, "Thank you for the wonderful meal, Mrs. Young."

"It was our pleasure, Mr. Potter," Lily said as she stood up and shook his hand.

Her dad got up as well and shook Harry's hand, "It was a pleasure to meet you, Harry."

"Likewise," Harry grinned, "Is it okay for me to apparate?"

"Oh yes," Isaac said, "We don't have any wards on the house."

Harry turned to her and said, "Thanks for inviting me Willow. It was nice to get out of the house."

And with a crack, he was gone.

"So," Willow started, "What did you guys think?"

"I think he was brilliant," her dad said, "Although him running out of the kitchen was slightly odd. He said you reminded him of someone dear."

Her mum looked like she wanted to tell them something but looked at Willow instead, "He was definitely interesting."

"So can he come to my party?" Willow asked hopefully as she crossed her fingers.

Her mother's face split into a grin that Willow had not been expecting, "I think that would be an excellent idea."

Willow squealed before hugging her mother and running off.

They said he could come. Now all she had to do was convince Harry that he should.

Back to index


Chapter 4: Willow Turns 11

Author's Notes: I realized I messed up on the years since Voldemort's downfall a bit. I had accidently said it was 63 years ago when in reality it has only been 53 years. I hope I fixed the error in chapter 3. If anyone notices any other errors, please don't hesitate to let me know. Like a fool, I don't always proofread my work.


"So what are you going to do today?" Olivia asked Willow the next day as they both rocked back and forth on the swingset at the local park.

"I'm gonna go help Harry in his garden again today I think," She replied, "He'll never admit it, but he enjoys the help. You know he's old and his knees are all stiff."

Olivia laughed, "I still don't understand how you can stand to be around him. Everything about him and his house is creepy."

"He's actually very nice," Willow said as she defended Harry to her friend, "He's just been alone for so long. He was in some war when he was younger and lost a lot of people he cared about. He just found it easier after that to keep to himself so he wouldn't have to ever go through something like that again."

"Oh, so he has like PTSD?"

"What's that?" Willow asked her friend. She had never heard the term before.

"Dad said it was when someone has trouble recovering from a terrifying event," Olivia said, "It's common in people who go to war. They come back and the horrible memories just play over in their head and follow them home."

Harry was quite paranoid but did he have this PTSD that Olivia explained to her. Willow knew it was a possibility. He said he had lost many people and there had been a lot of things from that time that he regretted and refused to talk about. She could see the haunted look in his eyes and the way he sort of drifted off into nothingness when he started thinking of memories of his former life but Willow didn't know if it was because of the things that had happened in the war against Voldemort or from losing the woman he had loved for the past sixty years. It could've been both for all she knew.

"Yeah I guess that sounds like him," Willow said thoughtfully as she kicked her feet into the dirt, effectively stopping the movement of her swing, "He's talked a little about what went on back then but not much."

"Regardless," her friend said as they both got up and started making their way back to their bikes, "He still gives me a funny feeling. I can't describe it but I wouldn't want to get used to the feeling."

"I'm inviting him to my birthday," Willow said quietly as she hopped on her bike.

"What? Why would you go and do a thing like that?"

Because he's the same age as some people in my family," Willow said, "I just wanted to see if any of them knew each other from long ago."

"Willow," Olivia looked at her with a look of exasperation, "England is a big place. The odds of him knowing anyone in your family are slim to none."

Willow couldn't tell her best friend that all of her family were magical and so was Harry. She couldn't tell her that they had all fought in the same war. There was a chance that none of her family knew Harry even though he was famous and might know of him. Harry had admitted to attending Hogwarts and Willow knew everyone in her family had also gone to Hogwarts. Maybe, they at least knew each other in passing.

"I know," Willow said, "But I've had the chance to get to know him. He's alone all the time. He doesn't really interact with people or the outside world in general. No one should have to live like that. If there's a chance, any chance at all that he might know someone there, then it will have been worth it to invite him."

"Did you tell your parents you were inviting him?" Olivia asked, "They don't strike me as the type of parents who just let you invite some strange old man to your birthday party."

"Oh they were against it at first," Willow said with a smile, "But they invited him over to have dinner last night and I guess he put their minds at ease. They knew who he was somehow, or at least, they knew his name. I guess he's a decorated war hero or something."

"Strange," Olivia said simply.

"You know," Willow said as they started to ride back home, "You could come with me. I always help him in his garden and then sit on the porch and talk with him for a while. You could see he's actually nice and not at all creepy."

Her friend was quiet for a moment as if she were contemplating going with her, before she spoke again, "I think I'll pass on that. Maybe I'll meet him at your party if he goes."

Willow tried not to look disappointed. She had been hoping Olivia would accompany her to Harry's house.

The two friends parted and said their goodbyes at Olivia's house as Willow continued on her way to Harry's.

He was already in his garden as Willow pulled up. Harry waved to her as she popped out the kickstand on her bike and she waved back with a smile.

She walked over to him as he stood up, "How goes the day Miss Young?"

"It's been okay," Willow replied, "Hung out with my friend in the park this morning. We just left."

"Sounds like fun," Harry smiled, "You're a little late today. I started early. I had a lot of things on my mind and working in the garden helps clear my head so I was out here at dawn."

"Oh," Willow said in a disappointed tone, "That's alright. We can still sit on your porch and I can steal some more of your lemonade."

Harry laughed, "That we can. Do you mind picking up the tools for me? My knees are hurting something fierce today."

"Sure," Willow said as she scooped up the tools that Harry has been using.

"I'll head inside and grab you some lemonade while you're putting them in the shed," He replied as walked off.

A few minutes later saw both Harry and Willow sitting in their customary spots.

"So what did you think of my parents?" she asked.

"They were nice," Harry replied, "They seem to love you very much."

"They do," she said, "At least, I would like to think that they do."

Harry chuckled, "Your mum shares her first name with my mum. My mum's name was Lily too."

"It's a relatively common name in England though isn't it?" Willow asked

"True," he replied, "It was just an observation. I didn't mean anything by it."

"So who did my mum remind you of?" Willow asked wanting to know the answer to the question that had been nagging at her since Harry had left the night before.

"You have to understand that it was a bit of a shock," Harry said, "I haven't seen her in forty years after all. But once I took the time to look at your mother, I noticed similarities but also big differences."

Willow must have looked confused because Harry spoke up again, "She looked like the woman that I've loved all my life, at least, at first glance she did."

"Ah!" Willow exclaimed, "That's why you acted like a nutter and ran off."

"I'll admit it probably looked rather strange to you all," Harry said with a grin.

"I've been wondering," Willow said, "How old are you exactly? I've just been guessing."

"How old do you think I am?"

"I dunno, like eighty?" Willow said and when Harry turned to look at her with an affronted expression she added, "Ish?"

Harry laughed. He seemed to laugh more and more the more Willow spent time with him and it made her immensely happy that she could provide Harry with a reason to laugh and smile again.

"Not quite," He said, "I turn 71 on the 31st."

"Really? she asked, "That's the day after my birthday. What are you gonna do for your birthday?"

"Nothing, I haven't celebrated my birthday in many years."

"Well that's going to change this year," Willow said, "Even if it's just you and me, we're gonna celebrate your birthday."

"You are quite determined to never let me live in peace aren't you?" Harry asked with a grin.

"No one should be alone on their birthday. It just isn't right."

"You get used to it after a while," Harry said.

"Not me," she replied, "I'm never gonna be a hermit like you."

"Ouch!" Harry said, "That was a low blow."

Willow grinned almost knowingly, "It's not a low blow if you don't regret being a hermit."

Harry began laughing, deep and booming, from deep inside his chest. Willow had never heard Harry laugh so loudly before like he was truly happy and nothing in his life had ever gone wrong. It surprised her so much, that she found herself laughing with him.

"You know," Harry said wiping the tears from his eyes after his laughter subsided, "You remind me so much of her."

"Who? Your lady love?"

"She was very free-spirited as well," Harry said, "She always had this intensity in her, kind of like you. She questioned everything around her. She never let me pull into myself during my bad days."

"She sounds wonderful," Willow replied honestly.

"She was indeed," he said quietly as he looked off into the sky.

She had only known Harry for a couple of weeks and yet, she felt as close to him now as she did to her own mother and father. Maybe it was the sharing of his past with her, maybe it was how easy it was to just fall into conversation with each other as if they'd known each other forever, but whatever the reason, Willow was glad that she had crashed her bike in front of the old man's house at the end of the lane.

"What was her name?" she asked after a few moments.

Harry turned to look at her, "I haven't spoken her name aloud in a long time. I know it was a long time ago, but for some reason, I can't seem to let the pain go. I don't think I'm ready to say her name again yet."

"I understand," Willow said, "So, are you gonna come to my birthday party?"

Harry looked at her as if she had just asked him to dive off a bridge.

"Birthday parties mean people," he started, "And me and people don't really mix. In another life, I might have said yes, but I just can't be around so many people anymore. I'm sorry Willow."

"I thought you might say that," she replied with a grin, "Which is why I had a plan to get you to go for when you said no."

"Oh you did, did you?" He asked with a raised eyebrow, "And what plan might that be?"

Willow grinned even wider, "I'm going to sit on this here swing of yours, and not move until you agree to go."

Harry stared at her with an incredulous look on his face. She never dropped her gaze or her smile.

"You're going to kill me, you know that?" he said finally

"Far from it," Willow said, "I'm just gonna make sure you live again. Meeting my parents was the first step and going to my birthday party is the second. Who knows, maybe one day, you might be able to reach out to some of your old friends or look up that lost love of yours."

Harry was quiet for several moments, probably reliving what such reunions would be like.

It would be nice," he said after a while, "To see old friends again."

"So you're going. End of discussion."

"I guess I am," he replied with a chuckle, "Oh, and by the way, if you have any muggle friends coming to your party, don't open my gift for you in front of them."

"What did you get me?" Willow asked excitedly.

"Nice try," Harry smirked, "You can find out on your birthday."

Willow stuck out her bottom lip in a pouting manner and Harry just laughed.

"Your charms won't work on me, Miss Young. You'll find that I have a steely resolve."

"I was only joking, well, partly," she said as she stood up, "I best be going. Mum and Dad are probably going spare right now wondering why I've been gone most of the day."

Harry laughed, "Yes you probably should. Wouldn't want to get grounded right before your birthday."

"I'll see you around Harry," she said, "Don't start the garden tomorrow without me."

"I wouldn't dream of it," He chuckled.

Willow turned away from him and started making her way to her bike. She got past the garden when Harry's voice called out to her.

"Hey, Willow?"

She turned around to look at Harry. He was standing on the steps to the porch with a sad smile on his face.

"Yes?" she asked.

"Her name was Ginny."

{---------}{---------}

The days to Willow Young's birthday party drew closer and closer and Harry found himself feeling more anxious the closer to July 30th it got, until, before he knew it, the day was upon him.

He was still in awe of the now 11-year-old girl that had barreled into his life like a raging inferno without warning almost a month ago. He hadn't opened up to anyone in so long and yet he found a great weight had been lifted from him since meeting the young girl. Maybe it was because she reminded him so much of Ginny that he found it so easy to open up to and talk to her. Many had tried over the years of course, but all had failed.

Without even knowing it, Willow Young was slowly cracking the stone that had been encased around his heart for so long.

6 o'clock found Harry standing in his room looking at his appearance in a mirror.

Well, I've looked worse, he thought with a chuckle.

He knew he would run a few minutes late. He had been sitting there for almost an hour letting his anxiety torture him.

He shrunk Willow's present and stuck it in his pocket before making his way out of the house and down to the road where he could apparate.

He popped up on the Young's front doorstep and the first tendrils of fear started to grip him. He hadn't even asked Willow how many people were going to be here. He hadn't been in a social setting in so long he was afraid he wouldn't remember how to act.

Just as he was about to turn around and apparate away, the door opened to reveal Willow beaming at him.

"I knew you'd come," she said.

"I almost didn't," he admitted.

"Well I'm glad you did," she said as she took his hand, "Come, we're all out on the deck out back."

Harry tried to calm his nerves as Willow led him through the house and out to the backyard deck.

"Wow!" Harry said as he looked at all the people seated at an elongated table that had been set up, "That is a lot of red."

"Oh yeah," she said with a laugh as she tugged on Harry's hand, "Everyone from my mum's side of the family has red hair just about."

Harry felt a pit of dread forming in his stomach.

"Willow," a woman's voice called out from behind them, "Are you gonna block the doorway all night?"

"Sorry grandmum," Willow laughed as she stepped out of the way.

Harry turned as he moved to the side and froze as he stared into the chocolate brown eyes of Ginny Weasley.

Back to index


Chapter 5: Ginny's Secret

Author's Notes: I rushed to push this out as quick as possible to appease the people unhappy with the cliffhanger from chapter 4. I'm sorry if I butchered the French. I haven't taken French in 14 years. If there's any discrepancies in ages/dates that anyone notices please let me know in pm if possible. If there are any other mistakes also let me know. I'm not even proofreading it. I hope this makes up for leaving chapter 4 the way I did.

p.s. Sorry in advance. lol


The plastic bowl Ginny had been carrying fell to the ground with a noisy clatter, alerting the other party-goers to the now unfolding scene in the doorway.

Harry stared at Ginny in amazement. He hadn't seen her in decades after all. Her red hair, now showing strands of grey, hung loosely around her face like a curtain. The wrinkles on her face drew lines to certain freckles like a connect-the-dots game. Her eyes, the chocolate brown eyes that he had fallen in love with all those years ago, however, showed a youthfulness that one wouldn't expect from someone of her age.

"Harry?" Ginny asked in disbelief, "Is that really you?"

Harry tried to reply but the sudden lump in his throat prevented him from making a sound. Here, standing before him, was the woman that he had loved for the past 55 years, maybe longer, and although he was hesitant to admit it to himself, still loved her completely to this day.

He opened his mouth to speak but still couldn't form the words.

"Mum?" a voice called out behind him, "Is everything okay?"

Lily appeared beside him and Willow, surveying the situation with a closely guarded look in her blue eyes.

"Grandmum," Willow spoke up, "This is Harry, Harry Potter. I crashed my bike by his house and he fixed my ankle and bike for me."

Harry noticed the all-too-knowing smile Willow was not even attempting to hide.

Ginny cleared her throat, "I need to... I need to sit down I think."

Lily led her mother to a chair and gently eased her into it before turning back to Willow and Harry.

"Well come on you two," she said with a smile.

So far, Harry had been able to ignore the rest of the party-goers, having never let his eyes leave Ginny's. Surveying them now, however, brought a whole host of emotions flooding back to him. There were a few blonde heads, from Isaac's side probably, but the red hair of the Weasley clan stood out like a sore thumb.

He tried to focus, to move his feet, to do anything, but fear and anxiety gripped him where he stood.

"Blimey!" Harry heard a voice say, "Harry?"

Ron, Hermione, Molly, and George just stared at him with shock written all over their faces.

"Come on," Harry heard Willow say softly as she took his hand, "It's alright."

Quietly, she led him to an empty chair. No one's eyes even left him as he sat down with Willow next to him. He wanted to look over at Ginny but couldn't bring himself to do it. He was honestly afraid of what he'd see. His emotions were a whirlwind and his thoughts were a complete mess.

"I'm sure we'll all have time to talk later," Lily said as her blue eyes penetrated the gaze of her family, "For now, let's just enjoy Willow's birthday, yeah?"

"Mum told me to give this to you," Willow whispered as she handed him a small vial, "For your nerves."

Harry took the vial and drank it without question as everyone tucked into the meal. Anything to help him get through the night.

"Did you know?" Harry asked Willow in a whisper?

"Know what?" Willow replied with a wide grin.

"You know what," Harry snapped, "Have you known this whole time?"

"Nope," she said with a smile, "I only figured it out after you told me her name."

"And you didn't think to tell me?" he asked testily.

"Why? So you could come up with some excuse not to come?"

She was right. Had he known that Willow was in any way related to the Weasley clan he wouldn't have even considered coming. Seeing the Weasleys again after all this time was like reopening old wounds, wounds that he would rather have forgotten. And Ginny, oh Ginny. He chanced a glance at her to find her staring straight at him, studying him as if he were some sort of test question that she desperately needed the answer to.

He was unable to break her gaze as he stared into her eyes. Eyes that showed fear, regret, and even a little anger, but most importantly, at least that Harry could see, love.

Willow snapped her fingers in front of his face to get his attention.

He looked back at Willow as she let out an exasperated sigh, "As I was saying, These are my two friends from down the road. Olivia and Noah. Guys, This is Harry who lives at the end of the lane."

Harry stared at the two kids with brown hair that looked like siblings as Willow introduced them. The girl seemed to be a year or two older than the boy.

"Pleased to meet you," Harry said stiffly. The potion Willow had given him had taken the edge off his frayed nerves but he was still feeling anxious and surrounded all the same.

"Don't let his tone fool you," Willow laughed, "He's a big softy."

Someone chuckled but Harry didn't look up to see who.

"So Willow wasn't lying," The girl named Olivia said.

"What do you mean?" Harry asked

"Well for as long as I've lived here, no one has ever really talked to you have they?" Olivia said, "Everyone is kind of scared of the creepy old guy that lives at the end of the lane. But not Willow though, of course, she would be the one to become your friend."

Harry would have laughed under different circumstances, "I apologize. I don't mean to make people feel so uneasy. I just like my privacy though."

"Don't lie," Willow said, "You absolutely were avoiding anyone and everyone and didn't care what people thought."

Olivia and Noah laughed as Harry turned to Willow.

"I can see how you're related to Ginny," Harry said, acknowledging a Weasley for the first time since he had arrived.

Harry chanced another glance at Ginny to find her in a quiet conversation with Lily.

"So how have you been?" Hermione asked.

"I've been okay," Harry replied, "Enjoying my retirement and whatnot."

"But you retired from the Aurors almost right after Ginny did from the Harpies," Ron said, "What did you do after that?"

"I became a healer for a small hospital in France," Harry admitted, "I only moved back to England twelve years ago."

"Intéressante," Hermione said, "Avez-vous aimé la France?

"Oui," Harry replied in fluent French, "C'était nouveau et excitant. je l'ai aimé."

"Um Harry," Willow said, "No one here knows what in the heck you guys are saying."

Harry and Hermione both laughed and for a moment, for one glorious moment, It was like the past had been erased, as if the last 53 years of his life had never happened. He was sitting here at a table with his best friends and adoptive family members and for one moment, Harry reveled in it.

The rest of the party passed quite quickly and soon, Harry found himself with just Willow and her parents, Ron and Hermione, and Molly Weasley as well as Ginny.

"Oh, I almost forgot," Harry said as he pulled his gift for Willow out of his pocket and enlarged it with his wand before handing it to her, "Happy birthday."

Willow squealed as she placed the package on the now-cleared table.

"I hope you don't mind," Harry said turning to Lily, "I should have asked first before getting it."

"I'm sure it's fine Harry," Lily replied.

Willow tore at the wrapping uncovering a long nondescript box.

"Who cares," Willow said as she opened the box with a grin, "I'm sure I'll lov....."

The rest of what she had been about to say died on her lips.

"What is it, Willow?" Lily questioned, "Hold it up. Let us see it."

"It's um, It's uh, a broomstick."

With shaking hands, Harry watched as she pulled the broomstick out of the box before she carefully placed it on the table as if it were made of glass.

"Bloody Hell," Ron gasped, "That's a Firebolt Ultimate."

"Uncle Ron, language!" Lily said.

"Sorry," Ron said looking sheepish, "But I don't think you understand. It's the best broom in the world. Firebolt hasn't made a broom since the Supreme."

They all inspected the broom. The handle was stained a deep mahogany color with the words Firebolt Ultimate emblazoned in gold on the side. The twigs were perfectly clipped and the goblin-made metal casting gleamed like diamonds.

"Harry," Ron turned to him, "Do you even know how to buy an average gift for someone?"

"I guess not," he said with a laugh.

"What do you mean?" Isaac asked Ron.

"Let's put it this way," Ron said, "I bet 10 galleons this broomstick cost more than your house."

Everyone turned to look at him as he shifted his gaze downwards.

"Is this true?" Isaac asked him.

"Maybe," Harry replied meekly.

"We appreciate this Harry," Isaac said, "But we can't accept. This is way too much money."

"Wait, What?" Willow nearly shouted, "No take-backs."

Harry laughed, "Mr. Young, I normally don't advertise my wealth but I am very wealthy. It didn't even make a dent in my finances. I wanted to gift something special to Willow to thank her for taking the time to get to know me. Besides, she gave me a gift worth so much more."

"And that would be?" Isaac questioned.

Whether it was from the potion or not he didn't know but the anxiety he had felt upon arriving had all but disappeared.

Harry looked at everyone gathered around the table before his eyes fell on Ginny, "She reunited me with my friends and family and that's worth all the gold in the world to me."

While her face showed no emotion, Ginny's eyes told a different story. He had always been able to read her like a book through her eyes.

He looked at everyone else, all of who were smiling except for Molly Weasley, who was wiping the tears from her eyes with a handkerchief.

"Well then I'm sure Willow graciously accepts your gift," Isaac said.

Willow barreled into Harry at a speed that surprised him as she hugged him around the middle, "Thank you, Harry."

"It was no trouble," he replied with a smile as he patted her on the back.

"George," Ginny spoke up for the first time that night, "Why don't you take Mum home and make sure she gets settled in alright. It's getting dark."

Harry looked around at the setting sun with surprise. Had he really been here for three hours already?

"Yeah alright," George said as he stood up, "Come on mum."

Mrs. Weasley stood up to follow her son but turned back around to look at Harry.

Without even thinking about it, Harry also stood up, walked over to her, and enveloped her in a hug for the first time in fifty years.

"I knew you'd find your way back to us Harry," Molly whispered in his ear.

Harry felt a lump form in his throat as tears threatened to spill from his eyes.

"I know," Harry choked out, "I'm sorry it took so long."

"Nonsense," she said as they broke apart, "You're here now. That's what matters."

"I promise I'll try to come and visit," Harry said as she stepped up to the arm George offered her.

"Please do," Molly said to him, "We have much to catch up on."

Molly gave him one last smile before she disapparated with George.

Composing himself, Harry turned and walked back to the table.

As he sat down, Ginny wasted no time in asking him the question he felt had been gnawing at her since they first saw each other in the doorway.

"Why did you disappear?"

Harry sighed. He knew it was only a matter of time before they had this conversation. He had been dreading it since he first laid eyes on her earlier.

"I think you know why," he said, his voice coming out more bitter than he meant it to.

"Isaac honey," Lily said, "Why don't you take Willow inside to put all her presents up."

Willow looked like she wanted to protest but Lily's glare silenced any argument from the 11-year-old girl.

After Willow and her dad had gathered up all the presents and walked through the back doorway, it left just him, Lily, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny seated at the table.

Ginny turned to look at him with a fierce determination in her eyes.

"I don't know why," she said, "You could've just ignored me. That would've made all the sense in the world. You didn't have to completely disappear. You didn't have to do that to mum. You were one of her children just the same as any of us were. She was devastated."

"We all were," Hermione spoke up, "Ron didn't talk to anyone for months."

Harry hung his head in shame. He had never meant to cause problems for the Weasleys. All he had been thinking about at the time was Ginny's rejection.

"I'm sorry," Harry said softly as he looked up, "I never meant to hurt any of you. I just couldn't stay after everything that happened."

"Mate, what are you talking about?" Ron asked, "You took off those few years after Voldemort to pull yourself together. You came back though and I thought things would go back to normal after that.

"Yeah I did too," Harry said quietly.

When he had come back to find Ginny engaged he had been crushed. She had not waited for him. He hadn't really expected her to nor had he asked her to, but he had hoped all the same. He had hoped her love for him would've been enough to outweigh the loneliness she must have felt.

"When I came back," Harry started as he looked at Ginny, "And I found out you were engaged to Oliver, I didn't know what to do with myself. I was miserable that the woman I loved so completely was promised to someone else. But, I stuck around. I didn't run off against my better judgment because it wasn't your fault. I don't blame you or hate you for marrying Oliver. I just wanted to see you happy."

"Then why did you disappear years later?" Hermione asked.

Because," Ginny spoke up, "That wasn't the last time Harry and I saw each other."

"What like you two were still friends?" Ron asked in confusion.

"No nothing like that," Harry said, "Ginny and I didn't see each other for almost 9 years excluding that one Christmas at the Burrow. But, she retired from the Harpies eventually and I was one of the aurors tasked with protecting the celebrations. All the death eaters had been captured by then but there were still old pureblood families sympathetic to Voldemort's cause. We didn't want to take any chances."

"He was under a slight disguise," Ginny said, "But I noticed it was him instantly. He forgot to change his eyes and tell me the last time you've ever seen someone with Harry's eyes."

They all looked around the table in some agreement. Harry had very unique eyes. Sure, other people had green eyes, but none ever shined quite like Harry's did.

"Anyways," Harry said, "We were together that night."

Hermione gasped as she stared between the both of them, "You didn't!"

This time it was Ginny's turn to lower her head in shame. She had never wanted to become a cheater and Oliver had never deserved that. She had confessed to him shortly after and they decided to get a divorce amicably, and stay friends.

"Huh?" Ron asked, "What does that mean?"

Hermione rolled her eyes, "Honestly dear you're just as dense as you were when you were a kid. They had sex."

It was a testament to the amount of time that had passed that Ron was able to take in those words without blushing. Were he younger, his whole face would have looked like a tomato at the revelation.

Harry looked at Ginny as she squirmed under his gaze, "Anyway, the next morning in the hotel room after we woke up, I was packing bags. We had made plans the night before to run off for a little while and just enjoy each other's company. I know it's stupid, we had been drinking the night before, but to me, nothing ever felt more right than being with Ginny so I didn't question wanting to run off with her that day."

For the second time that night, Harry felt tears threaten to spill over onto his face but somehow kept them under control. Maybe it was the old age, but the younger him would've been crying by now.

"That was when she told me that the previous night had been a mistake," Harry said bitterly, "She explained to me that she was still married to Oliver and couldn't keep running around with me, that she was going home to him and not me."

"Ginny?" Ron questioned, "Is this true?"

Harry saw Ginny let out a sigh, "Yes."

"But how could you do that to Harry?" Ron asked as his voice rose, "How could you do that to Oliver? Neither one of them deserved that."

"You don't think I know that?" Ginny snapped, "You don't think I still sit here years later and regret the choices I've made. I'm not proud of what I did. I've had a long time to come to terms with my betrayal of both Oliver and Harry and while I have not and will never forgive myself, I left it in the past where it needs to stay."

Ginny stared at him after her outburst as if daring him to say something. The look on her face was too much so he instead turned to Hermione who had a look of dawning realization across her features.

"So that's why you quit the aurors and disappeared not even a week after Ginny's retirement party."

"Yeah," Harry said to his friend, "Like I said, I had to get away. I couldn't stay here anymore with all the bad memories, so I packed my stuff, and I was in France by the next week."

"I wish you hadn't," Ginny said so softly that Harry barely heard her.

"Why?" Harry asked, "So I could sit here and watch you be happy with Oliver. Do you realize the amount of self-loathing I'd have to possess to do something like that? I know I liked to torture myself when we were younger but we were adults and I just couldn't watch you be with him."

"I divorced Oliver," Ginny said quietly as she stared at him.

"What?!" Harry said, "When?"

"Two months after that night at the hotel," Ginny admitted, "I tried to find you, to let you know what had happened and that despite all my reservations, I was ready to be with you, Oliver and I talked and he convinced me to go find you. You were already gone though."

She was basically telling him that the last 37 years of his life never had to happen. She had been ready for him and he had run away. The thought now made a horrible feeling of loathing well up in his chest. Not for Ginny, no, but for himself. It always came back around to him distancing himself from other people or playing the hero. There was no point in crying about it now though. 37 years had passed. Too long, in Harry's opinion, to try to dwell on the what-ifs and could have beens. He tried to push the thought out of his head. He knew his mind would torture him later with it.

Harry noticed Lily look at Ginny and for a moment, he thought he saw fear skirt across her features. It was immediately replaced with a blazing look of determination as Ginny gave her daughter a nod.

"There's something else everyone should know," Ginny said in a steady voice."

"There's more to the story?" Ron said as he gaped at his sister.

"Unfortunately yes," Ginny said, "But it's the most important part and I've only told two people about this."

Ginny turned back to Harry as she continued, "I only hope you can forgive me one day Harry. Maybe if I had tried harder to find you, so much time wouldn't have been wasted and you would've gotten to know her sooner."

"You wouldn't have been able to find me, I was perfectly hidden," Harry said back to her, "What do you mean know her sooner? What are you talking about Ginny?"

Ginny sighed as she motioned to Lily.

Lily took out her wand and muttered, "Finite."

Lily's face shifted ever so slightly as her nose lengthened slightly and her cheekbones filled with more definition.

When she was done, Harry froze, completely gob-smacked as he stared into the emerald green eyes of Lily Young.

The silence around the table was absolute.

Lily looked at him with a small smile.

"Hey, dad."

Back to index


Chapter 6: Harry the Denialist

Author's Notes: Now being Beta'd by the lovely Arnel who was kind enough to offer to help me with my chapters. I am most gracious.


No one spoke. Harry’s mouth had gone completely dry as he stared at Lily. His brain was trying to comprehend what his eyes were seeing. Had she called him Dad? Had he heard her right? The thought seemed impossible, laughable really, but as he stared at Lily, he couldn’t help but notice the similarities between himself and her.


No, it just wasn’t possible. Someone, somewhere down the line, would have told him. There was no possible way he had an almost 40-year-old daughter who had stayed hidden for this long. This was some kind of joke. It had to be.


Harry tore his eyes away from Lily to look at Ron and Hermione, both of whom looked as shocked as he felt, before looking back at Lily.


He could see Ginny’s tight-lipped expression out of the corner of his eye as Lily continued to stare at him. He could sense the anxiety behind her smile and also a little of something else. Fear, maybe? What did she have to be afraid of? There was no way he was her father, despite what she might have been told. He couldn't wrap his mind around the fact that what had been said was true so instead, his mind chalked up their similarities to coincidence.


“Harry?” Hermione said, bringing him out of his thoughts, “Are you going to say anything?”


“Yeah mate,” Ron also spoke up, “The tension and silence are extremely uncomfortable now.”


What did they expect him to say to a bombshell of that magnitude? A bombshell that, if he were being completely honest with himself, was probably false anyway.


“No,” Harry said as he licked his dry lips.


“No?” Lily questioned.


Harry sighed. He never should have come to Willow’s party.


“Lily,” Harry started, “I don’t know what Ginny has told you, but you being my daughter is not possible.”


Harry heard a gasp from someone but didn’t bother to see who has he continued, “Your mother and I were together one time almost forty years ago. Don’t you think that if you were my daughter, I would've found out by now?”


“How would you have known?” Lily asked, “You moved to France. You yourself said that no one would've been able to find you, that you were completely hidden.”


She tried to take his hand in hers but he jerked back as if he had been burned. The look of pain and rejection in her eyes didn’t go unnoticed by him, and under normal circumstances, he would’ve felt guilty.


“Harry,” Hermione spoke up, “I know this might be hard to believe. I mean, I’m having a hard time believing it myself, but even you have to admit that her resemblance to you is uncanny.”


Harry shook his head as Ron said, “I’ve never seen eyes like that on anyone before.”


Was he the only one who saw through the lie? Ron and Hermione had been so quick to agree that if he didn’t know any better, he’d say they were in on the ploy.


“Harry,” Ginny said, “Why won’t you believe us? I wouldn’t lie to you about something like this.”


“Because I can’t!” Harry said, raising his voice, “If I stop for one second to think that what you and Lily are telling me is true, that Lily is mine, then that means the last thirty-seven years of my life have been for nothing!”


No one spoke as he continued his tirade, “Ginny, you knew! You knew the only dream I had in life was to have a family, one that I could call my own. That was something I had never had before. Sure, your mum and dad took me in and treated me as their own and I did feel like a part of your family but it wasn’t the same.”


Harry turned back to Lily who was looking at him intensely. The anger that had reared its ugly head seemed to all but disappear as he looked into her emerald green eyes.


“I can’t believe it,” Harry said in almost a whisper, “Because if I believe it, then that means that I missed out on watching Lily grow up. I missed out on all her firsts. I never got to see her go to Hogwarts or graduate. I never got to see her succeed. I never got to walk her down the aisle as she got married.”


Harry let out a breath he didn’t know he had been holding. “This can’t be true, because if it were, so much time has passed that I’d always feel like an outsider looking in. It’s all I’ve ever been.”


Lily moved to take his hand and this time he didn’t recoil.


He stared at her hand in his as she spoke, “None of that matters. What matters is that you’re here now. No one, and that includes me and Mum, blames you for not being here. I will admit that I wish you had been here all this time, but I’d rather you come into our lives, my life, years later than to not come in at all.”


"Why can't you understand?" he pleaded, "I don't want to have these missing moments haunting me the rest of my life."


Lily's eyes flashed angrily, "So it's easier to believe this is all some big lie than to face the pain, is that it?"


That was exactly it, although Harry would never admit it to himself. Hadn't he had enough pain in his life. It seemed like the entirety of his existence was filled with nothing but pain and regret. Didn't he deserve some sort of reprieve?


He needed to get away. He felt surrounded and constricted.


He stood up as he wrenched his hand away from Lily's.


"I'm sorry," he choked out, "I can't do this."


And without another word, he Disapparated with a pop.


"Well," Ron said trying to break the tension, "That went well."


"Ron, honey," Hermione said sweetly.


"Yes?"


"Do shut up."


"I'm sorry," Ginny said looking at her daughter, "Your father has always been stubborn. While I don't agree with the way he handled things, I can understand it."


"It's okay, Mum," Lily said with a sad smile, "Maybe he'll come around if we give him some time."


"I hope you're right," Ginny replied to her daughter.


No one noticed the flesh-colored string being pulled up to the second-story window or Willow as she snuck out the front door and took off on her bike down to Harry's house.



{---------}{---------}


Harry Apparated straight into his kitchen thinking over the night in its entirety. His head was killing him and all he really wanted was a drink to wash down the horrible revelations that had been brought to light tonight.


He summoned one of the glass tumblers out of his cabinet, followed by an old bottle of Ogden’s finest, before pouring himself a liberal amount and sitting down at his kitchen table.


Where had he gone wrong?


Harry found himself thinking back to the war, and about how he had abandoned Ginny. Did he deserve this? Most definitely. He had had the last few years to admit to himself that he never should have left her. All the pain he was feeling now, the missed out on memories and years, were completely his fault. In a different life, or a different time, he would’ve wanted to blame Ginny. He probably would have blamed her. But he couldn’t.


It all circled back around to Harry leaving.


The last fifty-three years were on him. It was his fault Ginny had ended up marrying Oliver. He chose to run off after the night they had in the hotel. It was his fault he was never there for Lily or Willow or Liam. He had not seen Liam yet, but knew Willow had a baby brother.


Where had he been tonight?


Harry knocked back the fire whiskey in one gulp with a grimace as he set the glass back on the table.


Yes, all this could be chalked up to him running away from his problems. He was a coward. That’s why he ran after the night in the hotel and that’s why he ran away tonight.


He should’ve been in Slytherin instead of Gryffindor.


Harry sighed as he poured himself another liberal amount of the fire whisky. They were right of course, no matter how much he didn’t want to believe it. A part of him had known as soon as he looked into his daughter’s green eyes, eyes damn near identical to his own.


What was he supposed to do? How was he supposed to handle this? Was he just supposed to ignore the past thirty-seven years and swoop back into their lives to play father? He didn’t know the first thing about being a father. It’s not like he had many father figures to learn from.


‘How would you have handled this Sirius?’ he thought, ‘What would you have done?’


Sirius was the only father figure he had in life and he had only known him for two years before he died in the Department of Mysteries. It had been so long ago since Sirius fell through the Veil and Harry could still remember it as though it were yesterday. If Harry were completely honest with himself, it was something he never truly got over. How do you get over being the cause of death of someone you loved?


The first shot of whiskey did nothing to quell the aching feeling in his chest. Maybe if he drank enough, he could drown out all the regret and pain of the last fifty-five years of his life.


He knocked back the second glass.


Honestly, his whole life had been a shit show, not just the past fifty-five years. The first eleven years of his life were spent in constant abuse. Sure, he had periods at Hogwarts where happy moments shone through the bad like beacons of hope. These happy memories were marred by the fact that every year he had either lost someone he cared about, there had been an attempt on his life, his friends turned on him, or everyone at school thought he had gone completely mental.


Where had he gone wrong?


Was everything in his life already predetermined and he was cursed to be miserable forever? Was he really not meant for anything else?


So wrapped up in his thoughts he didn’t hear his front door open and close or the footsteps as they made their way closer to him.


“Harry?”


Harry jerked up, his eyes scanning the room, before falling on a figure in the doorway, partially hidden by shadows.


He squinted his eyes to make out the figure through the candle’s waning flame.


He had electricity, but most days just opted to use candles. He flicked his wand, and the kitchen was immediately bathed in a pale yellow light as the figure was suddenly illuminated.


“Willow?” his brow furrowed in confusion, “What are you doing here? How the hell did you get in here?”


“Oh, that?” she answered with a smile, “I picked your lock.”


“Excuse me!” Harry asked, “You did what?”


Willow laughed as she finally moved out of the doorway, “I picked your lock. It was rather easy.”


“But, how?” he questioned.


“Have you forgotten who my family is?” she replied back, “Have you forgotten I’m related to the owner of one of the most successful joke shops in wizarding Britain?”


“George,” he muttered under his breath.


Willow heard him and laughed.


“The real question is, what are you doing?” she asked as she sat down beside him and stared intently at him.


What had he been doing? Wallowing in self-pity? Reliving painful memories? How much time had even passed since he left Willow’s party?


“Just thinking, I guess,” he finally replied, “I’ve got a lot on my mind.”


“Well, I’d expect so,” Willow said with a smirk, “Finding out you have a daughter and grandchildren must have come as a shock to you.”


Harry stared at Willow open-mouthed, “How did yo...How did you even know?”


Willow smiled the biggest smile Harry had ever seen before placing a piece of flesh-colored string attached to an ear on the table.


“You keep forgetting I’m a Weasley.”


Harry stared at the Extendable Ear in amazement. He hadn’t seen the contraption the Weasley twins had invented in years.


“You know,” Willow said again, “No one is going to make you be a part of their life. Mum never knew you. She really wants to know you, I reckon, but she’s not going to beg. Grandmum still loves you. She doesn’t talk about you all that much and never mentioned you by name, but when she does talk about you, I can see it in her eyes. I might only be eleven but it’s easy to see.”


Harry didn’t say anything as the eleven-year-old continued, “What I want to know is how you expect to run from me and Liam like that. I can tell you want to run. I can see you want to escape from the pain you will feel if you let us in. I know the past hurts, but how do you think I would feel if you did that? How do you think Liam would feel if he knew you had an opportunity to be there but chose not to?”


Harry squirmed uncomfortably in his seat as the eleven-year-old girl, no, his granddaughter, begged him to not run away in her own way.


“Besides,” she said with a grin, “You couldn’t get rid of me if you tried. I would just follow you.”


Harry laughed. It felt good to laugh. He had no doubt that Willow would follow him. Was he being stupid? Was he really going to run away from his family like that? He had always dealt with his problems by running away from them. Maybe, it was time to deal with them like the Gryffindor he was.


“Why are you so smart?” Harry questioned, “I feel like I’m getting grilled by a parent.”


“It’s not that I’m smart, although I am really smart,” she told him, “It’s just that I love my mum and grandmum. I know you sticking around would mean the world to them. I don’t want to know what it would feel like if my dad ran off. Don’t do that to Mum. Don’t leave us.”


Harry stared at Willow, and for the first time, saw the eleven-year-old girl that she really was. The eleven-year-old girl who just wanted her Mum and Grandmum to be happy. The eleven-year-old girl who just wanted to know her granddad, the girl who had bothered to break down the walls of the old man who lived at the house at the end of the lane.


“Willow,” he started, “I’m not going anywhere.”


She stared back at him, eyes full of hope, as she replied, “You promise?”


“It’s going to take me some time to get used to all this,” Harry said, “But I promise I’m not going anywhere.”


She grinned as they both fell into a comfortable silence.


The thought of seeing Lily and Ginny again scared him, if he were being honest, but he knew he would never be able to forgive himself if he didn’t see them, if he didn’t try to mend the wounds they had all sustained over the years. He owed them that much for running away.


He had a daughter.


The thought was foreign to him and yet filled him with so much happiness that he felt like he could burst. He never thought he’d be able to have a family after Voldemort. He thought that chance had been ruined when he took too long to come back to Ginny. He had had everything he had ever wanted all along. He just didn’t know it.


‘Just because you’ve lived a life of regret doesn’t mean it always has to be that way. You can make new memories you know. Ones that aren’t so painful.’


He thought back to Willow’s words from the first time he had ever opened up to her. She had been right. He didn’t want to admit it then, but now, after everything he had learned, knew she had been right all along.


He could make new memories full of love and laughter with his family. Didn’t he deserve that, after all these years? Didn’t everyone deserve a happy conclusion to their story?


Harry had never stopped to even consider happy endings before. Not when all he saw was Voldemort and afterwards, Ginny with Oliver.


“Now that you’ve promised not to run away and to try and be in our lives,” Willow said, “It’s time to move on to another important matter.”


“And that would be?” Harry questioned.



Willow clapped her hands together with a conspiratorial grin, “Why getting you and Grandmum back together of course.”


She said it so innocently that Harry had to laugh, although his laughter was short-lived when he saw the serious expression on his granddaughter’s face.


“You can’t be serious,” Harry exclaimed.


“Dead serious,” she replied.


“Willow,” Harry sighed, “Your Grandmum and I are completely different people now. I’ve made my peace with that. I’ve accepted that we wouldn’t ever be together again. You should too.”


“She still loves you.”


“Does she?” Harry asked, “Or does she just love the thought of me? The old me? The me she fell in love with sixty-five years ago?”


“When you find your soulmate,” Willow started, “They love you forever. Not just a version of you, but every version.”


Harry sighed at his granddaughter's persistence. “It’s not always that simple Willow.”


“It could be,” she replied, “Look me in the eye and tell me you don’t love Grandmum anymore. Prove me wrong and I will drop it.”


This girl was too smart for her own good. Maybe she’d be the first in the Potter line to actually get into Ravenclaw.


He couldn’t do what Willow asked. The truth was, he still loved Ginny. He loved her just as much now as he did during his sixth year at Hogwarts. Fifty-four years had passed and his love for her had never even diminished slightly.


“That’s what I thought,” Willow said with a grin as she stood up.


“You are insufferable,” he said with a laugh.


“I know,” Willow also laughed, “I should be heading back. Hopefully, they haven’t noticed I am gone yet.”


“What?!” Harry yelped, “You just snuck out? You can’t do that.”


Willow looked at him before giggling, “You know I keep thinking about how I said you were like the granddad I never had, not knowing at the time that you were actually my granddad. It’s funny, isn’t it?”



“What does that have to do with anything?”


“You’re supposed to be the cool granddad,” Willow said as she pointed accusingly at him, “Not the one who scolds me when I do something wrong. Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione told me what you got up to at school.”


Harry stared at Willow with his eyes wide. She was going to be the death of him, he was sure of it.


“Anyways,” she said, “I need to get going. They are probably forming a search party as we speak.”


Harry laughed, “Goodbye, Willow.”


“Goodbye, Granddad,” she said with one foot out the door, “Thanks for the present. I can’t wait to destroy Slytherin in Quidditch.”


And then, she was gone.


Harry grinned to himself. Being called ‘granddad’ was going to take some getting used to.

Back to index


Chapter 7: A Different Young in the Garden

Author's Notes: The last few chapters will come more spread out. I know I've posted kind of erratically up until this point, but I really want to do the ending justice and make it as pleasurable a read for everyone as possible.

Beta'd by the lovely Arnel


Harry woke up the following morning with a slight headache and an unpleasant taste in his mouth. With a groan, he pulled himself into an upright position and looked at the clock on his bedside dresser.

Harry sighed. How had he got a hangover from just two meager shots? Back in the day, he would've been able to knock back six or seven easily with no problem.

"You're seventy-one now," Harry said to himself, "You're not some teenager at a Hogwarts house party anymore."

Grumbling, Harry slowly stood up, got dressed, and made his way to the kitchen to put on some coffee.

As he waited for the coffee to finish brewing, the events from Willow's party and all the revelations that had been brought to light came flooding back like a tidal wave.

The fact that he had a daughter felt foreign to him. He didn't know how to feel about it if he were honest with himself. Part of him felt a happiness he had never really known before. Another part of him, however, was terrified. He didn't know the first thing about being a father. How could he not? He never really had a good father figure in his life before. The closest thing he ever had to a father was Arthur Weasley and even that was only for a week or two each year before term started.

Another part of him, the part he desperately wanted to get rid of, was angry. Was he angry at Ginny? Was he angry at himself or just the cards life had dealt him? Harry figured it was a little of all three.

Harry poured himself a cup of coffee and made his way out onto the porch before sitting down in his usual chair. He watched the sunrise every morning. There was something peaceful and altogether beautiful as he watched the tendrils of light race across his lawn.

Deep down he knew Ginny wasn't to blame and, deeper down still, knew even he wasn't to blame. Sometimes, life was just unfair. This realization didn't help the bitterness and anger he felt at the entire situation, however.

The only one he didn't feel completely uncomfortable around was Willow. He guessed it had something to do with her not ever judging him and talking to him like she'd talk to any other friend.

It would be awkward around Lily at first, but hopefully, he would be able to not make a complete fool of himself in front of the daughter he didn't know, eventually.

Ginny Weasley.

He didn't know what to think about Ginny. Did he still love her? He'd be lying if he said he didn't. The truth was, though, he didn't know who Ginny Weasley was anymore. He was angry at her, no more than he was at himself, but he still felt angry all the same. He had told Ginny he didn't hate her or blame her for marrying Oliver.

Had he been honest?

If the situation had been reversed, would he have waited for her?

The answer was yes, without a doubt.

Ginny had been his everything, the only bright spot he could remember during the war. Loneliness had driven her to Oliver, of that much he was certain. A loneliness he had got to know all too well over the past fifty-three years.

The truth was, he would have waited lifetimes for her but she hadn't even waited three years for him. The thought depressed him more than anything else. Had he just not been worth waiting for?

He hated himself for thinking all these thoughts after telling her he didn't blame her.

He couldn't avoid her. He would be as civil and respectful to her as he could for Willow and Lily's sake but, his and Ginny's love story ended fifty-three years ago.

The sun was fully up now. His yard was being bathed in sunlight but the trees made sure the road stayed hidden in the shadows.

Shadows.

Most people were afraid of the dark, of what lurked in the shadows but not him. He had been in the dark for so long that he had found a certain kind of beauty in it. He couldn't decide which he loved more, the beauty of a sunrise, or the beauty of a sunset and the darkness that followed.

Harry stood up to gather his tools from the garage before making his way to his garden.

He wanted to check on the sunflowers before turning to his other flower bed and the Lilies of the Valley that it contained.

He heard the footsteps coming up behind him but didn't turn around.

"Hello, Willow," he said.

She was a little earlier than usual but thinking back to the time he had started without her; he didn't blame her for it.

"Not quite," the voice behind him said.

Harry had never turned his head so fast in his life.

"Lily?" he said, "What are you doing here?"

"I've actually never seen your house before," Lily said as she gestured to it, "It is rather picturesque."

"Where's Willow?"

"Oh, she is hanging out with those two friends of hers," Lily said, "Willow told me that gardening helps clear your head and I figured you had a lot to think about after last night."

When he didn't reply, she continued, "I was wondering if you'd like some help."

Harry stared at Lily, "Do you know anything about gardening?"

"Not even a bit," she said with a smile, "Herbology was my worst subject at Hogwarts."

Harry let out a small chuckle at her honesty, "Well, this garden is different from the greenhouses at Hogwarts. For one thing, all I have are Muggle flowers so nothing is going to try to kill you."

Lily laughed and Harry couldn't help but think that she sounded just like Ginny.

"Sunflowers are Mum's favorite flower," Lily said as she looked at the bed with all his sunflowers in them.

"I know, he replied quietly, "That's why I plant them. They get me through the bad days."

Lily turned to him, "You still love her, don't you?"

Harry sighed. Why did every conversation go back to the one topic he wanted to avoid the most? Was life torturing him on purpose? He saw no reason to lie to her. Hopefully, she wouldn't be like Willow and push to get them back together.

"I do," he admitted, "And I don't think I'll ever stop loving your mother. I don't even think I know how to stop."

Lily nodded her head, "I know, I feel the same way about Isaac."

"How did you two find each other?"

"Well, we both played Quidditch," Lily said, "Not on the same team, of course, and for the longest time, I always thought he was kind of full of himself. He was a Beater and a damn good one too."

"What house was he in?"

"House?" she looked at him questioningly, "Oh, this wasn't at Hogwarts. I played for the Harpies. Isaac played for the Arrows."

"You played professional Quidditch?" he asked in surprise.

Lily laughed, "Well, with parents like mine what did you expect? My dad was one of the best Seekers Hogwarts had ever seen and my mum was the best Chaser the Harpies had seen in ages."

Harry smiled, "I wasn't that good."

"Out of all the matches you played at school, you failed to catch the Snitch twice. The first time, was because of the Dementors and the other time was because one of your teammates knocked you out with a Bludger. You probably would've caught the Snitch those two games as well if it had not been for that."

"How do you know that?" he asked in awe.

"Mum told me," Lily said simply, "She didn't talk about you much. The regret she felt about Oliver and the pain she felt over you leaving weighed pretty heavy on her but she made sure that I knew who you were. I found out all the rest from Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione. They didn't know you were my dad of course, but they talked about you all the time and what you three used to get up to at Hogwarts."

To say Harry almost felt grateful towards Ginny and his old friends was putting it mildly. Ginny could have just as easily said she didn't know who Willow's father was or that her father was Oliver. Instead, Lily had grown up knowing that he was her dad and was even told stories about him.

"How could no one notice?" Harry asked Lily, "I mean you look like someone threw Ginny and me into a blender and you're what came out."

"I've been using glamour charms my entire life," Lily said quietly, "At first, I hated it. I didn't see why I couldn't just go around looking like I'm supposed to. I guess Mum was scared the family would judge her for having cheated on Oliver. You have to realize that I love Mum more than anything. She's the best mum anyone could ever want, but she wasn't always the greatest mum."

"What do you mean?" Harry asked.

"Well," Lily said hesitantly, "The first few years of my life that I can actually remember she pawned me off a lot on Grandmum."

Harry was about to retort with a scathing remark about Ginny but Lily continued, "I know it sounds bad and when I was younger I always kind of wondered why she did it. But I understand now. She wasn't really ready to be a mother without you. She suffered from a really bad depression that almost killed her. She didn't completely abandon me and was always lovely when we were together, but the battles she was fighting in her head made it impossible for her to care for me day in and day out."

Had Ginny truly been that distraught over him leaving? He now felt the familiar sense of guilt settling in the pit of his stomach.

"I'm sorry," he finally said as he looked at Lily, "I never meant to make her suffer."

"I don't blame you," Lily said as she poured a few seeds into the trench she had dug, "You were suffering as well. You did what you thought was best for you. No one, not even Mum, faults you for that."

Despite Lily's words, Harry still felt guilty. If he had not been so cowardly the night he ran away, this could have all been avoided.

Could he fault Ginny for the things that she did in the midst of her sadness? He didn't like it but he understood. He remembered the crippling fear he felt at even leaving his house for the first year he was in France, that overwhelming sense of dread that one day, his emotions would get the better of him. He remembered the panic he felt whenever his eyes caught someone who looked even remotely like Ginny.

No, he couldn't fault her. He didn't have to like it, but he couldn't fault her.

"Who was the other person she told?" he asked not really knowing what else to say, "Ginny said only two people knew."

"Oh, she told me and Grandmum," Lily said, "Grandmum had to know so she could put that charm on me when I stayed at the Burrow. She let me tell Isaac the basics but not the specifics."

"You never told Willow?"

"No," Lily said, "I honestly never thought I'd meet you. I didn't see the point in telling her everything."

"I see," he replied, "Then how in the name of Merlin did she find out by herself? Hermione was literally the brightest witch of her age and she never figured it out, but your ten-year-old daughter did?"

Lily laughed, "Willow is special. She has this overwhelming need to see the good in everything, to always look on the bright side. She focuses on the positives rather than the negatives. She questions everything and when she has something in mind that she wants an answer to, she doesn't stop until she gets that answer."

Harry smiled, "Yeah, she kept pestering me until I would talk to her."

Lily laughed again, "Yep, that's Willow. Has she tried to play matchmaker between you and Mum yet?"

"Merlin, yes," Harry said, "Please make her stop."

"She won't," Lily replied, "I will admit that it would make me extremely happy to see you and Mum back together but I also know thirty-seven years have passed since you last saw her. You two are different people now. You're probably still mad at her in some way for everything that happened. I get it. I'm not going to push it no matter how much I want to see it happen."

"It's not that I don't love her, it's just that..." Harry trailed off not really knowing how to put it into words, but Lily apparently understood.

"It's okay," she said as she stood up, "Mum didn't decide to tell you and everyone else all this because she thought it would bring you back to her even though I know she wants that. She told you so it would bring you to me and your grandchildren."

"I'm sorry I was never there," Harry said as he also stood up, "I wish I had been there. I never had a family of my own before. I'm just glad you don't hate me."

Lily took the moment of opportunity and before he knew it, Lily was wrapping her arms around him.

"You're my dad," she said softly, "I could never hate you."

And just like that, and without being able to stop them, Harry felt tears fall from his eyes as he embraced her back.

To hug his daughter for the first time was a feeling that Harry couldn't even describe. He felt the pain and regret leave him through his tears as they both stood there, father and daughter, in their own little world.

"So, I guess things are going well I take it?" a voice said.

Harry and Lily immediately pulled back from each other as they turned to the visitor.

There was Willow, on her bike, with the biggest grin Harry had ever seen before.

"Oh, Willow hush," Lily scolded, "What are you doing here?"

"I come here every morning to help Harry with his garden," Willow said slowly as she looked at his garden with the freshly planted seeds, "But it looks like I've been replaced."

Harry laughed, "I could never replace you, Willow."

"I know," she said with a grin before she moved to Lily and whispered in her ear loud enough for him to hear her, "I really just come to steal his lemonade."

Harry snorted as Lily started laughing.

"The gall of this child!" Harry said.

Willow giggled, "I'm gonna go ahead and pretend like I know what that means."

"Well, we should be going," Lily said, "We have shopping to do today."

"We do?" Willow asked, and when Lily shot her a secretive glance added, "Oh yeah, we do."

"It was good to see you," Lily said as she looked at Harry.

"I'm glad you stopped by, Lily."

"I'll be back later," Willow said as she moved to her mum.

What, why?" Harry asked.

"You'll see," Willow replied with a mischievous smirk, "I'll come back for my bike."

Lily held out her arm for Willow to take.

Before she grabbed onto her mother's arm, she turned back to him with a grin, "Bye, Granddad."

And, with a pop, they were gone.

{---------}{---------}

Harry spent the remainder of the morning and most of the afternoon doing nothing. He had cleaned up the house a bit, but the list of things he could be doing was rather small.

He tried to read a book but it didn't captivate his interest. He didn't know why he was so restless and bored. Maybe he could come out of retirement. It had not been until he met Willow that he felt like he led a very boring life.

For the past twelve years, it suited him just fine, but now, he felt rather pathetic. His body wouldn't be able to take being an Auror again, but maybe a nice desk job would be alright.

No, he hated doing desk work. He would have to think of something else.

It was crazy to think about. A month ago, he was perfectly fine with his solitude and now he was feeling cooped up.

He remembered feeling that way when he lived with the Dursleys all those years ago: cooped up, out of the way, and isolated. This house was starting to feel more like a prison than a safe haven. He had found Hogwarts when he was eleven and with it, a whole other world.

'That's it!'

He rushed to the sitting room, rummaging around in a drawer until he found a piece of parchment and a quill before returning to the kitchen to write his letter.

He had not been back to Hogwarts in many years but knew that Neville Longbottom was still the headmaster. He had taken over for Minerva when she had retired twenty years ago.

He finished his letter addressed to Neville when Willow came walking into the kitchen.

"No, go ahead," he said in exasperation, "Make yourself at home."

"Thanks," she replied with a grin as she sat down beside him.

He shook his head, although was quick to hide the smile that came to his face.

"First," Willow said, "I want to say sorry."

"For?"

"For, um," Willow stuttered, "Here, I'll just give you your present first."

She went back over to the doorway and picked up a box about the size of a Quaffle before bringing it back to the table.

She sat it down in front of him with a smile.

"What are you sorry for?" he asked again.

Willow looked at her wristwatch nervously before looking back at him.

"I did something you might not be happy with," she said in a squeaky voice.

Harry looked at Willow and saw that she seemed very on-edge.

She checked her watch again, "Just know, it was all my idea. It wasn't anyone else's fault. Please don't get mad at them."

"Willow, you tell me what is going on right now," he demanded.

"I got you a birthday present," she said as she checked her watch again.

Harry didn't have time to reply as Willow let out a strange yelp and pushed his present to him.

She was so fast that he reacted on instinct.

As soon as he grabbed the box, he felt the familiar sensation of a hook somewhere behind his navel as his feet left the ground.

All too soon, he landed on solid ground again and stumbled, barely managing to keep his balance.

"Man, I'll tell you, Granddad," Willow said as she stood up and dusted herself off, "I don't want to do that again. That was horrid."

"You made me take a Portkey?" he asked, his anger rising, "Why would you do that?"

"I told you sorry before we left," Willow said.

"Yes, but why?"

"Because it's your birthday," she said with a smile, "And you should spend your birthday with family and friends."

She walked past him and as he turned around to get her attention again, froze.

She had brought him to the Burrow.

Back to index


Chapter 8: Harry's Surprise Birthday

Author's Notes: The French spoken in this chapter was just Harry telling Hermione that he applied for a teaching job at Hogwarts. It wasn't imperative to the plot in any real way. As always, please let me know what you think =)


Harry was livid.

He tried not to show it to Willow but he was fairly sure she knew. She could see right through people. She saw right through him in a matter of days after all.

Willow had turned around to look at him when he had stopped moving. Her chocolate brown eyes flicked from him to the ground fearfully as if she expected punishment, or at the very least, a stern talking to. But as she looked back up at Harry, and he saw the pleading puppy dog look she was giving him, he melted instantly.

"Bollocks!" Harry thought to himself, "That face should be illegal."

Maybe he could just turn around and leave. He would explain to Willow that he didn't feel comfortable coming around the Burrow so soon after everything and hopefully she would understand that.

As if reading his mind, she spoke up, "Please don't leave."

"Willow," he said with a sigh, "I told you this was going to take me some time getting used to. You can't just pop in my house and give me a surprise Portkey to the home of people I haven't seen in decades before last night. I know it's my birthday and I know you want this to work out, but you must let it happen on its own time. You cannot force it."

Harry saw Willow's bottom lip quiver as she replied, "I know, I'm sorry. I know you're super angry with me, but I just wanted my family together. The family hasn't been whole in a long time."

She looked back at the ground as Harry rubbed the back of his neck. Should he really be as mad as he was at Willow? Sure, she shouldn't have given him the Portkey, but she was only eleven, after all. She might have been smart for her age but she was still a kid, and kids were prone to mistakes and rash decisions the same as everyone else.

Willow saw the good in everyone and in every situation and had just wanted her family to be good again. Harry couldn't fault her for that. Her methods, yes, but her intentions were good.

Harry took this time to look at the Burrow properly for the first time since that Christmas so many years ago. It still looked the same as it always had.

The stall structure still had the appearance of a haphazardly thrown-together mess that looked like it would collapse had it not been supported by magic. Four chimneys were perched on top of the red roof and Harry could see the one connected to the kitchen billowing out plumes of smoke.

Harry looked off to the side and saw Arthur Weasley's workshop. It had been, and probably still was, filled with different Muggle items and contraptions like telephones and digital alarm clocks. Arthur had always been fascinated with Muggle technology.

The thought made him realize something.

Mr. Weasley had not been at Willow's birthday party. The thought caused a sense of anxiety within him.

"Willow?" Harry asked, "Where is your Uncle Ron's dad? Why wasn't he at your party?"

"He was sick that night," Willow explained, "I don't know with what, but Grandmum said it wasn't serious or anything to worry about."

Harry sighed in relief. For a second his mind had gone to the horrible thought that Arthur Weasley had died and no one had told him.

"Hang on," Harry said, "How did you even get a Portkey?"

"Oh, that?" Willow laughed, "I just told Uncle Ron I would tell my mum he let me ride on a broomstick when I was six. He made it for me."

Harry stared, wide-eyed at his granddaughter. This child was something else.

"And how many times have you used this information against him to get what you want?" Harry asked.

"A fair few," Willow admitted with a grin, "Usually just to be able to fly again. Mum doesn't want me flying until I'm older. Hopefully, since you got me a broom for my birthday, she will let up on that though."

Before he could reply, the front door to the Burrow suddenly opened and Lily poked her head out.

She saw the two of them standing in the yard and smiled, "Well, are you two going to come in?"

Willow started to step towards her mother but Harry made no effort to move from the spot he was standing in.

Lily, sensing his discomfort, made her way to him.

"Willow, why don't you go and see if Grandmum needs help," Lily said as she stopped in front of them.

Willow looked from Lily to him, shooting him one last pleading look, before making her way inside the Burrow.

"Are you alright? Lily asked softly, "Ron told me what happened."

"Yeah," Harry let out a sigh, "I just don't know if I'm ready to be here or not."

Lily nodded sympathetically, "I know Willow is overzealous at the prospect of getting you to be with the family. I'm sorry. She is very impatient."

"That she is," Harry said with a chuckle.

"Listen," Lily said, "If you're not ready, you don't have to be here. No one will hold it against you. I know you're still getting used to all this. No one wants to push you so hard that you end up running away again." She paused and then added, "Well, except for maybe Willow. My daughter is very smart but she doesn't understand that when you force someone into an uncomfortable situation, they might start to feel caged and want to run away."

Harry was feeling exactly that and was about to tell Lily the same, but Willow's pleading face from earlier crept into his thoughts.

She was the whole reason all this had happened and although he was extremely uncomfortable at the situations he had found himself thrown into since he met Willow, she had wiggled her way into his heart almost immediately and without him even realizing it.

He couldn't disappoint her. She was his granddaughter.

"You don't have to worry about disappointing Willow," Lily said as if reading his mind, "She can get over it. I can explain it to her in a way that she will understand."

Harry let out a short bark of laughter, "It's like everyone with red hair can just read my mind or something."

"Well," Lily said, "Please don't take this the wrong way, but Mum always said you wear your heart on your sleeve. I've only been around you four times including now and even I can see that she was right."

Harry's brow furrowed in concentration. Was he really that easy to read? Was he that predictable?

"I'm not ready," Harry said, "But, I have to be. For you, Willow, and Liam."

"Are you sure?" Lily asked him, "You don't have to do this."

"I'm positive," Harry replied.

Lily's eyes crinkled at the corners as she offered her arm to him with a smile, "Come on, then. Everyone is waiting."

Walking into the Burrow for the first time in nearly forty years was a strange experience. When he walked over the threshold, he felt the familiar grip of anxiety blanket his heart. Fragmented memories of his time here over the years began to resurface and Harry couldn't help but feel not only a sense of great trepidation, but also of amazement. Even after all these years, it still looked exactly the same; as if he never left.

The nostalgia continued into the sitting room whereupon he glanced briefly at the old Weasley clock that instead of telling time, tracked the immediate family member's location and general well-being.

His eyes swept over the room and saw the same old furniture. It was like he had gone back in time. He could still remember Ron and the twins rescuing him from Privet Drive before his second year and bringing him here for the first time. He was surprised to see he still held the same wonderment for the house as he had all those years ago.

Lily led him out of the sitting room and into the kitchen.

At the doorway he stopped, taking in the room and the people within it.

Molly stood at the kitchen counter, chopping up different vegetables while she hummed softly to herself. Ginny was at the stove stirring something in a pot with her wand. Even Willow was helping out as she was at one end of the table peeling potatoes and talking to her dad.

Isaac was smiling as he conversed with his daughter, all the while, trying to keep Liam from grabbing the potatoes and shoving them in his mouth.

While Willow had strawberry blonde hair, Liam had the trademark Weasley red.

The sight made his heart clench painfully.

"Harry Potter."

Arthur Weasley stood up slowly with the aid of a walking cane and made his way to him. His hair had lost most of its reddish hue and instead looked almost blonde. The man had wrinkles in abundance but his eyes still shone with the mirth that Harry had come to know as a teenager.

Harry noticed Ginny and Molly glance over at him momentarily before turning back to their work. Willow flashed him a smile.

"Mr. Weasley," Harry said as he stuck out his hand.

"Harry," Arthur said as he grabbed his hand, "I think we've known each other long enough that we can drop the Mr. Weasley nonsense. It makes me feel old."

Harry chuckled, "Alright then, Arthur."

"I'm glad you could make it," Arthur whispered to him, "When Molly told me that you popped up, I was so ecstatic. My son has finally come home."

Regret tore through his body like a tidal wave. When he had left for France, he hadn't thought of how his absence might have affected the Weasley clan. The only thing he had cared about was putting as much distance between himself and Ginny as he could. The thought that they had suffered over his departure made his heart ache in a way that it never had before.

Harry took his hand back from Mr. Weasley and instead, hugged the old man.

"I'm so sorry," Harry said, "I never meant to hurt any of you.

"It's alright, Harry," Arthur said, "Molly told me what happened and why you did what you did. I understand. I'm just glad you're home."

Harry pulled back and looked into Arthur's face. Even behind the unshed tears that clung to the corners of his eyes, he could sense an immense amount of love from their depths.

Arthur Weasley made his way back to his previous location at the table as Harry sat down next to Isaac. Lily sat down next to him.

"Good to see you again, Harry," Isaac said as he looked up, "Sorry about the whole Portkey thing. Willow just told me what she did. Rest assured she had a stern talking-to before you came in."

Harry was still a bit peeved over the Portkey incident but decided to brush it under the rug, "It was not a problem. Willow meant well."

Willow flashed him a smile as he continued, "You know, you and Lily raised a fine young woman. Not many people could have brought me out of hiding like she did."

Isaac laughed, "Willow is a very determined child, always has been. We couldn't be prouder of her."

All of a sudden, Harry saw a potato rise up off the table and start levitating away. Just before it reached the outstretched hands of Liam, Isaac grabbed the potato from the air and sat it back down with the rest.

"Liam, what did I tell you?" Isaac said exasperatedly.

Liam just giggled and said, "Want."

Everyone at the table laughed.

"That little one is also as determined as can be," Lily spoke up, "Merlin help us, Honey."

Isaac smiled as he turned to Harry, "Would you like to hold him?"

"I dunno," Harry said taken aback, "I haven't really held a child since Teddy and that was so long ago. What if I drop him?"

"He'll survive. He has a strong head," Isaac said, and before Harry could react, Liam was thrust into his arms.

Harry didn't quite know what to do so he cradled him like he used to cradle Teddy when he had been younger.

Harry looked at Liam and noticed the freckles, striking red hair, and hazel eyes. He looked like the very definition of what a Weasley was supposed to look like as a baby. He didn't notice as he held Liam that Ginny had turned around from her task at the stove and was watching the pair with a smile.

"How old is he?" Harry asked.

"He was born last year, in January," Lily said, "The third to be exact."

Harry smiled as he looked down at the small child who was trying to grab his hair, "Can he walk yet?"

"Oh, yes," Lily said with a laugh, "He's quite the escape artist. Always escaping his crib and rummaging through the food cabinet."

"Ron used to do the same thing," Arthur said, "I swear that boy loves food more than he loves his wife."

"It does come a close second," said a voice from the door.

Harry looked up to see Ron grinning with Hermione at his side.

"George and Angelina are right behind us," Ron said, "He wanted to go check on the shop and make sure Peyton hadn't blown it up again."

"Who is Peyton?" Harry asked.

"George and Angelina's daughter," Ron said as he and Hermione swept into the room and sat down at the table, "She's uh, very good at making things explode."

"Think of Seamus and multiply it by a hundred," Hermione said.

Seamus has been one of their schoolmates. He had had an unusual proclivity to make his cauldron explode or wand backfire.

"She's a bloody genius though, I'll give her that," Ron said, "The things she invents make what Fred and George invented look like child's play."

Harry made a mental note to not accept any food or drink from Peyton in the future if he ever met her.

Soon enough, George and Angelina arrived, and the table was laden with enough food to feed a small army.

He had forgotten how much he missed Molly's cooking and as the Weasley clan sat around the table eating, talking, and laughing, Harry couldn't help the overwhelming happiness that he felt.

"Alors, Hermione," Harry said as he sat down his fork after polishing off some treacle tart, "Je voulais te dire quelque chose mais je voulais en quelque sorte que ce soit un secret jusqu'à ce que j'en sois sûr."

Hermione raised her eyebrow quizzically before replying, "Qu'est-ce que ce serait?"

"J'ai postulé pour être professeur à Hogwarts."

Hermione's face lit up with a smile, "That's great news, Harry! Why did you decide to do that?"

"Boredom mostly," Harry said with a laugh. I've been getting restless in my old age it seems."

"You know," Willow said looking between him and Hermione, "I'm gonna learn French one day so I can know what the heck you guys are talking about."

Everyone at the table laughed.

"You'll find out soon enough if I'm accepted," Harry said.

"I don't see why you wouldn't be," Hermione said, "I'm sure Neville would be glad to have you."

"Neville?" Ron asked, "What would you need to help Neville fo..Oh!"

"Don't tell anyone yet," Harry said.

"My lips are sealed mate."

"Anyways," Willow said dramatically, "it's present opening time."

"What?" Harry yelped, "Please don't tell me you guys got me presents."

"Well, that's usually what one does at a birthday party," Willow said.

Harry shook his head. Willow seemed more excited at the thought of him opening presents than he himself did. He hadn't received a birthday present in nearly thirteen years except for the ones that Teddy sent him.

"Open mine first," Willow said as she thrust a box at him, "I promise it's not a Portkey."

Harry chuckled as he tore at the wrapping and opened the box carefully. Inside was a gardening tool set and seeds for various Muggle flowers.

"Why, thank you, Willow," Harry said genuinely, "These will come in handy. My tools were getting rather old."

"I noticed," Willow said with a grin, "C'mon, open up the next one!"

He ended up getting a nice blazer from Molly and Arthur, a cookbook of recipes from George and Angelina along with some Weasley's Wizard Wheezes products, a new quill and ink set from Hermione (surprisingly not a book), and a restaurant voucher for two to a nearby restaurant from Lily and Isaac.

The meaning behind the Young's gift was not lost on him. Lily had said she wouldn't push him and Ginny to get back together but he knew Lily still hoped that they would one day.

Ron of course, got him some Chudley Cannon's memorabilia stating, "They're going to have a good year this year, I can feel it."

Ginny's gift was absent. Maybe she didn't know what to get him. Maybe, she didn't know if he would accept anything from her, and instead opted to just tell him, "Happy Birthday."

The slight disappointment he felt surprised him at the absence of Ginny's gift, but he didn't let it show as he replied, "Thank you, Ginny."

"Let's take this outside," Arthur said as he grabbed his cane and stood up, "It's a beautiful evening. It would be a shame to not go enjoy some of it."

The party moved outside to the back garden and Harry noticed that the sun was starting to set.

The sun, just over the horizon now, gave an almost effervescent quality to the fields around the Burrow. The slight wind that was blowing moved the blades of grass, as if they were only dancing, and Harry couldn't help but think he'd never seen anything as beautiful before in his life.

"I forgot how much I missed it here," Harry said simply, "I always loved watching the sunset here when I was younger."

"Indeed," Molly said, "We couldn't have picked a better spot for the Burrow."

"Makes me want to move somewhere else now," Harry said.

"Well, you've certainly got the money for it," Ron said with a chuckle, "I say go for it."

"What was it like living in France?" Willow asked, "Did you live in a big city?"

"No, I actually lived on the outskirts of a small village, although I worked in Caen."

"You said you were a healer there?" Hermione asked, "What made you become a healer?"

"Boredom, I guess," Harry shrugged, "I didn't want to be an Auror anymore. I was basically starting a new life for myself. I didn't want to do the same thing I did back here in England."

"Are the women as beautiful as they say?" George asked as he waggled his eyebrows.

Harry let out a short laugh, "I don't know, I didn't really notice."

"Come on, Harry," George said, "You must have met some bird there who caught your fancy."

"I just wanted a quiet and peaceful life," he replied, "Romancing women wasn't really on my to-do list."

"Leave the man alone, George," Arthur said with a laugh.

Harry grinned, "Although, I did meet Daphne there."

"Daphne?" Ginny asked quickly, "Who is Daphne?"

"She was actually a Slytherin in Ron, Hermione, and my year," Harry said, "Daphne Greengrass."

"Oh, yeah!" Ron said, "Her sister married Draco. Daphne always seemed kind of snooty to me."

"That she was," Harry smiled, "She annoyed the hell out of me when we first ran into each other."

"So, you were off gallivanting with a Slytherin Harry?" Angelina said, "Imagine if the Prophet had gotten wind of that. What a scandal!"

Harry guffawed loudly before replying, "We weren't gallivanting as you so eloquently put it. We were just friends. After her husband died, she moved to France. Guess she wanted a fresh start, too; a place where she could let go of the bad memories and make new ones."

He saw, out of the corner of his eye, the pained look on Ginny's face and stood up.

"I'm gonna run to the loo really quick. This bladder isn't what it used to be."

He made his way inside the house and up the stairs to the bathroom across from Ginny's old room.

He splashed some water on his face before looking up into the mirror.

Why had he left like that? Everything was going so well. He didn't even need to use the toilet. He just knew he had to get out of there for a minute.

The hurt in Ginny's face at the mention of Daphne Greengrass bothered him more than it should have. What right did she have to be angry or hurt if he found comfort in another woman, even if it was romantically? She was the one that had got married for Merlin's sake.

He ran his hands through his hair before sighing. That was an argument for another time.

He was making his way back through the sitting room when the Weasley clock caught his eye.

Moving closer, nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary. It still looked the same as it always had. Upon closer inspection though, Harry noticed another hand had been added that he had missed upon his first entrance into the room.

His eyes widened in surprise as he stared at a hand, labeled 'Harry Potter' complete with his picture, as it pointed to 'Home.'

"Mum and Dad had that added for you right before you left," a voice said from behind him, "It was going to be their Christmas present to you."

Harry didn't turn around. He would know Ginny's voice anywhere and across any amount of time that had passed. Instead, he focused on the gift that Molly and Arthur had given him that he never knew about. It saddened him greatly to know that he was only finding out now.

She walked over to look at the clock.

"After you left," Ginny admitted, "I would come here and look at the clock to see how you were doing. I guess since I didn't know where you had run off to, it was the only thing I could do."

"Why?"

"I don't know, really," Ginny said, "I guess I just wanted to know that you were okay. I know you probably don't want to hear this, but I still loved you. I still cared what happened to you."

Harry didn't reply and they lapsed into silence as they both stared at the clock.

"Harry?" Ginny spoke up a moment later, "Why won't you talk to me?"

Harry sighed, looking at Ginny for a split second, before turning back to face the clock,

"Because I don't know how to anymore," he admitted in a whisper.

She placed her hand on his arm causing him to jerk back.

He didn't look at her face. He didn't want to see the pain and disappointment that he was sure her eyes housed.

"Did you love her?" Ginny asked, "Daphne, I mean?"

"Why do you care?" he replied. He hated how his voice sounded. The regret and resentment were ever-present.

"I will admit that a part of me is jealous," Ginny said, "I know I have no right to feel that way after what I did, but I can't help it. The other part of me, the bigger part, just wants to know that you were happy; that you didn't run off to France and you've been miserable all this time. Despite what I feel, I would never want that for you."

Harry turned to look at Ginny fully for the first time that night. He could see that she was telling the truth. That she really did just want him to be happy.

"Yes," he replied simply.

"What happened?" Ginny asked

"She died in a car accident," Harry said, "When we met, well, you kind of know what she was like. She was a Slytherin. She didn't hate Muggles or anything, but she had a dislike for basically anything Muggle related. But, as time went on, I guess the Muggle life actually grew on her. I taught her how to drive. She was terrified at first, of course, she thought that a metal contraption run by an engine and petrol was barbaric."

He didn't even know why he was telling her about Daphne. Maybe, it was because he'd never told anybody and just needed to get it off his chest.

"She soon got over the fear," Harry continued, "Things were great, you know? But one night she was driving to the store for groceries. She didn't drive much but she always drove to the store to get groceries. Anyway, she was driving to the store and a drunk driver collided with her. I moved back to England after that."

"Do you still love her?"

"I do," Harry admitted, "But I'm okay with what happened now. I've had a long time to process it and it doesn't hurt like it used to."

Ginny grabbed his hand, interlacing her fingers with his, before she spoke, "I'll never be able to tell you how sorry I am for not waiting for you. There is no reason I could give or words I could say that would bring you the comfort you seek. However, I'm still here for you if you'll have me, even as an old friend.

Harry looked at their interlocked hands as he fought off the butterflies in his stomach. How crazy was it that even after all these years Ginny Weasley still affected him so?

"I appreciate that," he replied finally.

"Hold up," she said, "I honestly did get you a present."

She let go of his hand and reached behind one of the couches, producing a leatherbound book.

"Sorry I didn't wrap it," she said sheepishly as she handed it to him.

"That's okay," he replied with a laugh.

He opened the book and on the first page was a moving picture of a baby with green eyes and a tuft of red hair on top of her head. 'Lily Weasley' was written at the bottom.

Harry flipped to the next page and again was greeted with a moving picture of Lily, only this time, she looked to be two or three years old and was laughing and giggling at the camera.

As he flipped through the photo album, he didn't notice as the tears started to fall from his eyes.

Each picture was of a milestone in Lily's life. Ginny teaching her how to ride a bike, her first broomstick ride, and her first train ride to Hogwarts were in there. There was a picture taken when Lily was signed with the Harpies and another of her marriage to Isaac. For the pictures taken in public, Harry noticed that Lily's eyes were brown but when it was just Ginny and Lily, her eyes were emerald green.

Harry closed the photo album.

"Thank you," he said quietly as he wiped his eyes, "you have no idea how much this means to me."

"I'd always hoped that you would come back one day so I could give this to you," Ginny said.

He shrunk the photo album before putting it in his pocket. He grabbed Ginny's hand again and they both just stood in comfortable silence for a moment.

"C'mon," she said with a smile, "They're probably wondering where we've run off to."

He smiled back, "We can't keep them waiting."

Back to index


Chapter 9: Meet Me in the Middle of Your Story

Author's Notes: The end of the story. There will be an epilogue which should be posted next Friday.

Meet me in the middle of your story where the soul is worn but wise-- Angie Weiland-Crosby


Harry woke up the next day with a sense of elation he had not felt since Daphne's death almost thirteen years ago.

His eyes sought out the photo album that Ginny had gifted him with yesterday for his birthday and his thoughts immediately went back to the party, and more specifically, his and Ginny's talk.

He hadn't meant to explain Daphne to Ginny. He hadn't even meant to really talk to Ginny at all if he was being honest with himself. He had imagined his first real talk with Ginny would've been filled with an oppressive awkwardness that would've left them both feeling too shy to be able to keep the conversation going.

After talking with Ginny about Daphne, however, he was left with a feeling of contentment, like a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He could finally breathe.

He turned to one of the pictures by his beside and stared at the smiling woman in the picture frame.

'Would you be proud of me?' Harry thought as he picked up the photo.

Daphne Greengrass stared back up at him with a smile on her face. How odd was it that when he had first met her in France, she never smiled? Come to think of it, he didn't either. Both of them were quite broken when they had run into each other for the first time. But, like two puzzle pieces, their broken edges fit together perfectly.

"You would like Ginny," Harry said aloud to the picture, "Both of you were the most stubborn women I've ever met in my entire life."

Daphne laughed at the camera and winked at him slyly.

Harry placed Daphne back down on his bedside dresser before he dressed and made his way to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee.

Soon after, the day saw Harry make his way outside to watch the already risen sun until one of the Youngs showed up to help him with his garden.

The animosity he had felt surrounding Ginny Weasley had disappeared after they had talked last night and although he wasn't a seer”he couldn't tell what the future would hold”he knew he wanted Ginny to be in it with him.

He didn't know if they would ever rekindle the flame that they had once held for each other, but he found he didn't mind finding out.

As the last vestiges of darkness disappeared on the horizon Harry began to work in his garden. Armed with his new gardening tool kit, courtesy of Willow, he made short work of the soil. He should have purchased new tools before now. Either that or had cleaned and cared for his own better. This new trowel glided through the dirt like it was water.

As he was toiling away in his garden, Harry didn't see the brown barn owl that was making his way toward him. He was jerked out of his thoughts, and work, when the owl deposited the letter in front of him on top of the soil.

Harry dusted his hands off casually on the sides of his jeans before grabbing the letter and opening it.

Hiya Harry,

Just wanted to see what you were up to mate. It was good to see you at the Burrow. Hermione wanted me to write you and apologize for my involvement in the Portkey business from yesterday. She's been scolding me since we left last night. Can you believe this barmy woman? Why did I even marry her again? Why, I can remember at Hogwarts wh


There was an ink smudge as if a couple of ink drops had been misplaced and rubbed into the parchment. The next words made him laugh to himself. He guessed Ron and Hermione hadn't changed much in all these years. They still bickered like an old married couple but then again, that's what they were now.

Don't listen to Ronald, Harry. He loves me very much and couldn't live without me. My husband was also getting off-topic, so I guess I'll ask you. We were wondering if you'd like to come around for a spot of dinner. We haven't really had the chance to talk with each other since Willow's party and we would like to know how you're doing with everything, and I would love to hear about your time in France.

There was another ink smudge and Harry couldn't help but grin in amusement.

Sorry about that. Ronald was trying to take the quill back from me and spilt his tea all over the table. I swear this man is still fifteen years old. I'm even starting to question why I married him now. Anyways, if you're agreeable to coming around for dinner, our address is 37 The Willows, Caversham, Reading. I hope to see you there at 6 pm.

Love Always,

Hermione...

And Ronald too, I guess.


Harry guffawed loudly at his two best friend's antics. They were still so perfect for each other that it was sickening.

"What are you laughing at?" a voice asked from behind him.

Harry turned around to Willow's beaming face. Her strawberry blonde hair was done up in a ponytail and she was wearing an orange Chudley Cannons t-shirt.

"I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Uncle Ron bought you that shirt," Harry said.

"So, what if he did?" Willow asked, "What's it to you?"

Harry chortled, "I almost played for them, Willow, and even I know they're bad."

"You won't sway my allegiance," Willow said with a smile.

"I really want to thank you for your gift," Harry said motioning to the gardening tool set, "New tools make gardening so much easier."

They kneeled at a flowerbed that was freshly tilled as Willow spoke, "They're enchanted to never dull or rust, at least, as long as the enchantment lasts. Obviously, I can't do magic yet, so I had to have Dad do the spell, but they should stay sharp for a long time."

"Well, make sure to thank him for me," Harry said, "Now what do you say we plant some of those new seeds you got me?"

"Sure," Willow grinned.

They worked in companionable silence as they planted the seeds. Harry was content in the fact that his life seemed to be slowly coming together again.

When he left for France, he didn't ever think that he would be able to get back everything he had lost. Slowly but surely, however, things were coming together. Maybe it was fate, maybe, it was the universe finally doing him a solid after all the heartache and pain that he had experienced in his life. Whatever the cause or reason, he was glad.

He took this time to study his granddaughter.

Life had sent her to him when he had needed her the most. Harry couldn't help but think that it was way more than mere coincidence that out of all the people in the world, across all the land and seas, it had been his granddaughter that found him. The odds were astronomical, and yet, against all the odds, fate had delivered.

Had it been fate that brought him back to his family? He didn't see how it could be anything other than that. He knew a lot of Muggles believed in a higher power but for him, that just translated to fate. Maybe they were one and the same.

Maybe it was all inter-changeable; miracles, fate, a higher power, magic. Were they all the same?

Harry wiped the sweat from his brow as he stood up, "I think we're done for the day. Let's go get some drinks and sit on the porch."

"Okay!" Willow said as she gathered up the tools.

Harry made his way inside to get a butterbeer along with Willow's preferred choice of lemonade as she put up the tools. Coming back from the kitchen, his eyes caught Ginny's picture as he passed the sitting room.

He made his way into the room, and over to the picture before he picked it up.

Ginny was smiling warmly up at him and the sight filled his heart with something he had not felt in a long time.

Love.

Not just any love, but an old kind of love; a love that was no more important than the love he shared with Daphne, but a different kind of love. The kind of love that stood the tests of time, that could never die.

"Is that Grandmum?" Willow asked in awe behind him.

"Yeah," Harry replied without turning around, "This was taken during her first season with the Harpies."

"She was so pretty!" Willow gushed.

"That she was, still is if we're being honest."

Harry took a few more moments looking at the picture before putting it back down and leading Willow to the porch where they took their customary spots.

"So," Willow said as she sipped her lemonade, "Have you and Grandmum talked yet?"

"Briefly," Harry replied.

"Did you two kiss?"

Harry nearly spit out the Butterbeer he had been drinking. He swallowed carefully and cleared his throat before answering, "No, we did not kiss."

"Aww, come on!" Willow exclaimed, "You two are so boring!"

Harry chuckled, "We aren't together, Willow. Even if that was something we both wanted, it wouldn't happen overnight."

"So, you admit it, then?" Willow asked with a knowing smile, "You admit you want it to happen?"

"I didn't… That's not what I…" spluttered Harry.

"Relax, Granddad," Willow said with a laugh, "I know a lot of people see me as this impatient little girl. Who knows, maybe I am. I would love to see Grandmum and you happy, but even I know that you can't rush perfection."

"You think what we have is perfect?"

"I don't think, I know," Willow said, "After everything you and she have been through you can't tell me you don't feel the same way. Years later and you both still love each other even though you've not been together."

"Hmm, maybe," Harry replied thoughtfully.

"Did you know?" Willow started, "That when Grandmum was like five years old, she used to have your story read to her every night before bed like a fairy tale? She told me she knew she was going to marry you before she even met you."

"Really?" Harry said in surprise, "I did not know that. I mean, I knew she had a crush on me before I even knew her but I didn't know she had my story read to her."

"Everyone deserves their fairy tale ending, don't you think?"

Harry nodded in response but said nothing more.

He was loathe to admit it, but the feelings he held for Ginny that he had buried so long ago were now at the forefront of his mind. It had been three days since he came back into their lives and here he was, pining after her like a schoolboy. Did she really hold that big of a spot in his heart?

So lost in thought was he, that he didn't notice as an owl swooped in and dropped a letter on his lap.

He opened the letter. As he read it, the thoughtful expression his face had portrayed was slowly replaced by a widening smile.

"What is it?" Willow asked, "Who is the letter from?"

"Never you mind," Harry said as he folded the letter and put it in his pocket, "You'll find out eventually."

For the next hour, Willow tried to get him to divulge some amount of information about the letter. Just when he thought she would never relent in her quest for information, she had bidden him goodbye and went back home after promising that she would be back later that night.

The time until he was supposed to Apparate to Ron and Hermione's drew near, and when his clock reached five, he decided it wouldn't hurt to be early.

He showered and dressed quickly before he Apparated to Caversham, Reading.

Ron and Hermione lived in a semi-detached neighborhood where all the homes basically looked the same. It reminded him of number four, Privet Drive.

Harry knocked on the white door and waited. Soon enough, he could hear lumbering footsteps, and then the door was pulled open to reveal Ron grinning at him like a maniac.

"Hiya, Harry," Ron said as he pulled him inside before shutting the door, "Hermione is just finishing up. That crazy woman started an hour ago so it's good you're early."

"I heard that!"

Ron and Harry both chuckled as they made their way into the quaint kitchen.

When they arrived, Harry watched as Hermione ran back and forth between the stove and the table. Hermione looked up, flashed him a smile, and continued stirring something.

They sat down as Hermione brought over a pan of something Harry had never seen before.

"Um, Hermione?" Harry said questioningly, "What is that?"

"That's meatloaf mate," Ron said with a chuckle, "It's basically a hamburger shaped like a loaf."

"Why is the ketchup on the top?" Harry asked, "Where's the bread?"

Hermione giggled, "You bake crackers and onions into the loaf and put the ketchup on top. Ron and I holidayed in America one year and tried it."

"It tastes way better than it looks," Ron said with a grin.

"Americans have some weird food choices," Harry said as he cut off a slice of the meatloaf and put it on his plate.

"They say the same thing about us," Ron said, "They seem quite appalled at the fact that a third of our diet is fish and chips."

They both looked at him expectantly as he took a bite of the meatloaf.

"Not bad," Harry said, "Definitely tastes better than it looks."

"Told ya."

"France has great food," Harry said as they tucked in, "It's one of the reasons I chose to move there."

"I'm sure Daphne was able to cook plenty of French dishes, right, Harry?" Ron asked.

Harry snorted, "Please, that pureblood princess didn't know the first thing about cooking. I prepared all of our meals."

"Aha!" Ron exclaimed, "So you two were more than just friends."

Harry, realizing his error and knowing he couldn't backtrack, replied, "Yeah. I'm sorry I didn't tell you last night. I didn't want anyone to judge me."

"No one was going to judge you, Harry," Hermione said.

"Yeah," piped up Ron, "I mean, as far as Slytherins go, you could've done a hell of a lot worse."

"What happened?" Hermione asked softly.

Harry thought about lying to his friends. It wasn't a story he was keen to tell over and over again. He didn't know why he didn't like talking about Daphne. Maybe it was because he wanted to keep her a secret. He wasn't ashamed of his relationship with her. He just wanted to believe that what they shared was for him and him only.

"It's not what one would consider table conversation," Harry said finally, "I might tell you guys one day, but I don't think I'm up for it today."

Ron opened his mouth like he wanted to protest, but Hermione immediately stomped on her husband's foot, effectively silencing him.

"We understand," Hermione said before she glared at her husband, "Don't we, Ronald?"

"Um, yeah, sure, whatever you say, dear," Ron said, "Blimey, woman, that hurt!"

"Anyways," Harry said with a grin, "What have you two been up to all these years?"

"Well, Ron quit the Aurors shortly after you did," Hermione said, "He went to go help George in the shop after Peyton was born. He still helps out there occasionally."

"You didn't quit because I left, did you?" Harry asked.

"Nah, mate," Ron said, "I never wanted to be an Auror forever and with George's daughter being born, he needed all the help he could get."

"I'm still Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement," Hermione said, "Everyone wanted me to be the next Minister of Magic but I turned it down."

"She was a shoo-in," Ron said.

Harry was certainly impressed. He had always known Hermione was very bright and expected great things from her but Minister of Magic?

"Have you guys always lived here?"

"No, we moved here about ten years ago, and well after Rose and Hugo left Hogwarts and got their own jobs," Hermione replied.

"We wanted to downsize," Ron said as he grabbed his wife's hand, "It seemed impractical to have that big house when it was just Hermione and me living there."

"Don't let him lie to you," Hermione said, "That's just Ron's way of saying he was too lazy to keep cleaning a bigger house than was necessary."

"You didn't want to clean it either," Ron pointed out.

"I got the job," Harry announced, interrupting his two friends before an argument could ensue.

"Really? That's great," Hermione said.

"Yeah," Harry said slowly, "I mean, Neville said it wouldn't be until next year. That's supposedly when Professor Vectis is retiring."

"It's a good opportunity for you to get to know Willow more," Ron said, "She starts Hogwarts this September."

"Oh, Merlin, I forgot!"

Ron sniggered at him, "If you think we were bad, wait until you see her in action."

"Willow is an angel, Ron," Hermione said.

"Are you serious?" Ron exclaimed loudly, "Are you forgetting about the time she turned every article of clothing I had pink?"

Harry and Hermione both laughed as Ron continued, "What about the time that she let off some of those extra-strength Dungbombs in our house? Or, if you want to go more recent, what about when she blackmailed me into getting her a Portkey so she could trick Harry into coming to the Burrow?"

Hermione and Harry just laughed at Ron's incredulous face.

"I could go on," Ron said.

"Please do," Harry replied, "Your face is priceless."

"If you become a Hogwarts professor, mark my words," Ron said as he pointed a finger at him, "You'll be completely grey before she graduates."

"I'll manage."

Hermione waved her wand and cleared the table before turning to him, "I'm glad you came Harry. It was nice to catch up a little bit."

"Yeah, it's almost like you never left," Ron said.

"Thank Willow. If it wasn't for her, I'd still be living my hermit life with no knowledge of any of you."

"I still find it amazing that she found you," Hermione said, "I mean, what are the odds that you live just down the road from the granddaughter you never knew?"

"Very slim," Harry replied, "I should get going. Willow is supposed to come back over soon."

Harry and Ron stood up.

"Take care of yourself, mate," Ron said clapping him on the shoulder.

"I'll try," Harry grinned.

"I'll walk you to the door," Hermione said.

"Trying to steal my wife, Potter?" Ron asked playfully.

"Please!" Hermione said as she grabbed Harry's arm, "I couldn't get rid of you if I tried."

Harry could still hear Ron laughing as Hermione walked him to the front door.

"Have you talked to Ginny yet?" Hermione asked when they reached the door.

"A bit," Harry said.

"Good," Hermione said, "Keep doing that. I'm glad you found your way back to her. She was a wreck for a long time after you left."

"I know," Harry said softly, "I don't know if we'll ever get back what we had but being her friend is better than nothing."

"We're old now, Harry," she chuckled as she hugged him, "It's time to stop living in the past and start living for the future. Stop trying to get back what you had and make something completely new. Even if you just stay friends, make it new."

"You're right," Harry said as he pulled away.

"Harry, I'm always right," she replied, "You should know this by now."

He chuckled, "Thanks for dinner."

"Thank you for coming," Hermione said, "You're welcome over any time."

"Thanks," Harry grinned, "See ya!"

And with a crack, he Disapparated home.

{---------}{---------}


Harry Apparated straight into his kitchen. The time on the stove only read seven o'clock.

Visiting with Ron and Hermione had been something he didn't know he desperately needed. He had missed them terribly over the years, and to have them back in his life once more, felt like his life was coming around.

He had been running around in a circle for so long. The circle was almost complete. He just needed one more thing.

He wrote a short note to Neville stating that he would pick up the post of Defense Against the Dark Arts when school concluded next year. Willow would be over the moon when she found out that he would be her professor starting her second year.

Harry grinned. He still had the Marauder's map tucked away somewhere. It would come in handy in scaring Willow half to death before he decided to gift it to her; maybe not as soon as her third year like when Fred and George had given it to him.

He debated on whether he would give her the invisibility cloak as well. He didn't see why not. He had no reason to use it anymore and would hate for it to go to waste. Maybe he would give her the two items on her birthday before her fourth year.

He made his way through the sitting room and into the entrance hall. Willow had said that she would be back at some point. He figured he might as well wait for her on the porch to save himself from having his locks picked again. She really was an amazing child.

He opened his door to step out onto the porch and stopped dead in his tracks.

Ginny Weasley was sitting on his porch swing looking off into the distance.

"Ginny?" he asked, "What are you doing here?"

Not taking her gaze away from the evening sky, she replied simply, "Thinking."

"And you felt like you had to do it on my porch?"

"It helps," she said still staring off into the distance, "When I'm closer to you, I mean. My thoughts always seem like a jumbled mess most days. The closer I get to you, the easier it is for me to think."

"How did you even know where I live?"

"Oh, that?" she asked finally turning her gaze to him, "I just asked the first kid I saw where the creepy old man lived. Nice kid. Someone named Olivia."

Harry grinned. Ginny knew who Olivia was of course, she had been at Willow's birthday.

Harry sat down in his chair as Ginny's gaze turned back to the sky.

"What were you thinking about?"

Ginny shrugged, "I don't know, everything?"

She said it like she wasn't quite sure of what she had been thinking of herself.

"I keep thinking," Ginny said hesitantly, "What would our lives have been like had we got together after you defeated Voldemort. Would it have saved us all this time and heartache?"

There it was. Did she blame him for everything that had happened since? Is that why she had married Oliver? Did she blame him for needing to take the time to fix himself?

"Ginny," he said softly, "There are a lot of things I regret in my life but, taking the time off I needed to heal is not one of them. Both of us were suffering. We were broken people and I would've hated myself if we rushed into something too quick only to have us fall apart even more. I wasn't willing to risk that."

Ginny looked thoughtful as he continued, "If we had gotten together, we would've either fit together perfectly, or destroyed each other beyond repair. That's not something I was willing to risk because I have lost enough people in my life. If there was even a chance, no matter how small, that we would've made each other worse, then I'm glad things played out like this."

"Isn't that what you did with Daphne?" Ginny asked.

Harry sighed, "Yes, and no. When we met, we became friends. We were not romantically involved until a few years later. Sure, we were both still a wreck, but we eased into it and even then, we got lucky. We could've just as easily ruined each other."

"So, you don't regret waiting for us?"

"No," he replied, "Fate brought us together exactly when we needed to be brought together."

"Even though we were both miserable?" she asked quietly.

Harry could see the silent tears clinging to Ginny's eyelashes as if begging to be let free.

Harry stood up and relocated to the swing, where he took Ginny's hand in his before he spoke again, "We weren't completely miserable. You had Lily, our daughter. I had Daphne for a time. Sure, there were times when I didn't know how I would carry on without you, but I like to think everything happens for a reason. Everything we've done in life, all the mistakes and regrets, joys and triumphs, led us here."

Harry watched as the tears, slowly and quietly, fell from Ginny's eyes.

Here they both were, old and slightly grey, and still completely in love with each other. It had taken them a long time to get here but Harry knew he wouldn't change anything if he could. Fate had brought them together exactly when they were supposed to.

They had finally come full circle.

Harry raised his hand to wipe the tears from Ginny's cheek as Ginny grabbed his hand and held it there. They didn't speak for many moments, possibly trying to convey to each other through their touch what they could never say through their words.

Finally, Ginny smile as she turned to him, "It's been a long, strange trip we've taken, you and I."

"Indeed," Harry replied, and without thinking about it, without stopping to consider the repercussions, Harry leaned down and captured Ginny's lips with his own in a soft kiss.

When Ginny's lips touched his, it was like the world stopped turning in an instant; like everything around them had just melted into the background. It was as if the moment was meant only for them. They weren't old and grey but sixteen years old again, basking in the innocence that they had lost so long ago.

When they finally pulled back from each other, and Ginny stared up into his eyes with a smile, Harry felt contentment wash over him.

They didn't say anything. They didn't have to. The kiss said everything that they had been too afraid to say out loud.

"On second thought," a voice said breaking them out of their trance, "You two can keep that to yourselves."

Harry looked up to see Willow standing on the steps to his porch with a wide beaming smile.

"Oh, shut it," Ginny scolded.

Willow chuckled as she took the chair that Harry customarily sat in.

The silence that followed wasn't uncomfortable. In fact, Harry found himself perfectly content just staring out at the slowly sinking sun in the sky as Ginny laid her head on his shoulder.

As he sat on the porch, hand in hand with Ginny, along with Willow as the three of them watched the sunset, Harry couldn't help but think;

"Life is good."

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Chapter 10: The Epilogue

Author's Notes: So, we come to the end. This was originally only going to be 15-25k words but I went over a little bit trying to give you guys as much content as I could. I want to thank all the people that read and reviewed my story. I'm going to take this time to read and review other stories of the people who were kind enough to enjoy my story before I start on my next story. I expect I'll start posting it in 3-4 weeks so I hope anyone who enjoyed "Old Love" stays tuned in.

TheHallowsInMe31


Willow Young was ecstatic about today. Today was her birthday, and not just any birthday, no. Today she turned seventeen. Today, she came of age.

She'd be able to do magic outside of Hogwarts, get her Apparition license, and do every other manner of things that came with turning seventeen in the wizarding world.

She didn't have any friends left in Ottery St. Catchpole. Olivia and Noah had moved a couple of years ago to Bath. Their father had got a job teaching at the local university and their mum had got a job as a tour guide.

She hadn't visited them yet, wanting to put if off until she graduated so she wouldn't have to worry about transportation or anything.

She still loved to ride her bike all over Ottery St. Catchpole. She would have preferred her broomstick, but couldn't just fly over a mostly Muggle village and risk being seen.

She reveled in the bright and sunny weather as she rode her bike down to the house at the end of the lane. She hadn't visited her grandparents in a week and since her mum had kicked her out of the house so they could "get ready for her party," her mum's words, thought it was high time to pay them a visit.

Willow parked her bike by the porch, walked up the steps, and entered the house.

What immediately caught her eye was the numerous boxes lining the hallway. She looking into the sitting room and found it empty. Confused, she made her way to the kitchen which also turned out to be empty.

Frowning, she made her way up the steps. Each room she checked on the second floor was also empty. Making her way to her grandfather's room, she noticed the door was slightly ajar, and pushed it open quietly and walked in.

The room was also empty except for a small table and chair that her grandfather now sat in as he finished writing what looked like a letter.

"Sup Granddad?" she said

Harry jumped so quick Willow could've sworn his soul left his body for a minute.

"Merlin, Willow!" he said as he turned around to face her, "Don't sneak up on me like that."

"Sorry," She grinned sheepishly, "I'm surprised you don't lock the front door anymore."

"What would be the point?" he asked, "You would just pick the lock."

"True," she laughed, "So, are you going to tell me why your house is all empty? Where's Grandmum at?"

"Oh, that," he said, "We're moving. We found a nice little place in Hogsmeade so I can be closer to Hogwarts. These knees aren't what they used to be. As for your grandmum, she went over to your house to help prepare for your party."

Willow nodded, "She making you do all the hard work, eh?"

"Something like that," Harry chuckled as he folded up the piece of parchment he had been writing on and placed it in an envelope along with another paper before sealing it with his wand.

He handed her the envelope.

"What's this then?" she asked.

"Your birthday present," he said, "and don't even think about trying to open it. I charmed it not to open until your party."

"Aww, you're no fun!"

He chuckled as he stood up, "You are the embodiment of what it means to be a Weasley. All too clever for your own good and incredibly impatient."

"I take that as a compliment," she said in a fake haughty tone.

"Although," he said slyly, "You were sorted into Slytherin. That's not very Weasley of you Miss Young."

"It was worth it to see Uncle Ron's face though," Willow sad with a grin, "I honestly thought he was going to have a heart attack when I told him."

"I think he was close to it," he said as he stood up.

They made their way out of the room, down the steps, and out the front door to sit on the porch one last time.

"So, what does it feel like to be seventeen?" Harry asked her after they had sat down.

"I dunno," she replied, "I mean I'm excited and all, but I don't feel any different."

"I remember when I turned seventeen," he said thoughtfully as if recalling a memory. "It was rather strange."

"How so?"

"Well, it was during the time when I was still at my aunt and uncle's," he started off. "The protection my mother had given me was going to expire the minute I turned seventeen."

"The blood ward magic?" she questioned.

Harry nodded before continuing, "Anyway, the Order was always coming up with outlandish ways to try to get me away from my aunt and uncle's house before I got murdered. This one took the cake."

"What did they do?"

"They brought half the Order with them," he said with a chuckle, "and then had six people, including your Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione, take Polyjuice Potion to look like me and act as a diversion in case we were attacked."

"I bet you loved that," she said sarcastically.

"I hated the idea," her granddad said as he looked out over the treetops. "Looking back on it now, it was rather funny. I mean, picture having a conversation with yourself but with six other personalities. It was wild."

"Could you imagine talking to seven of me?" Willow asked.

Her granddad let out a bark of laughter, "I'd rather not. One of you is enough."

"I'm not that bad!" she exclaimed.

"If you say so," he teased back at her.

They sat in thoughtful silence and Willow took this time to study her grandfather.

It was crazy how they had only been mere acquaintances six years ago.

When Willow had wrecked her bike in front of his house six years ago, she'd never believe that that one event would have led them to where they were today. Looking at him now, one would never believe this was the same old man that lived at the end of the lane from six years ago. His eyes now shone with a happiness that she hadn't seen when she had first met him, happiness she was almost sure had been caused by her grandmum, his wife. Maybe she and her mum had a little to do with it as well.

"Will Daniel be making an appearance at your birthday?" Her granddad asked her.

Daniel was her boyfriend. They had started dating in the middle of their fifth year and had been going strong ever since.

"No," she pouted, "He's still in Brazil with his mum and dad."

"I'm sorry to hear that," he told her, "I actually like Daniel. He's not a bad bloke."

"I'm going to marry him one day," she said dreamily.

"I know."

"You do?"

"I know that look," he replied, "I use to have the same look, or so I'm told."

"Please," she snorted, "you still have that look. You're so hopelessly in love that it is sickening."

"I have to make up for lost time somehow," he said with a grin.

"I guess," she replied cheekily, "but if I have to watch you and Grandmum kiss one more time, I swear I'll vomit."

He laughed.

She teased him mercilessly about it all the time, but the truth was, she was happy for her grandparents. After everything they had been through, all the hoops they had to go through, and hurdles they had to jump over, they deserved it.

She only hoped she could have a kind of love like that when she was that age.

"Well," her granddad said as he stood up, "it's about that time. Can't have a party without the guest of honor."

He held out his arm for her to take.

She took the proffered arm and they Apparated with a crack.

{---------}{---------}


Willow opened the letter she had got from her granddad and read through it carefully, her eyes widening in amazement with each line. She pulled out the other piece of official looking Muggle paper and smiled.

It was the deed to the house at the end of the lane.

She stuck both items back in the envelope and looked out into her back garden. Her mum and dad were talking to her Aunt Hermione and Uncle Ron. All four were laughing. Her great-grandparents were talking to Noah. He was giggling about something and showing them a new toy he had saved up enough allowance for.

Much to her delight, Daniel actually made it in from Brazil just in time for her party and was talking to her grandmum and Victoria, who was a friend of theirs from Hogwarts.

And then, there was Harry.

He was leaning over the railing of her porch, surveying the scene in quite the same fashion she was.

She made her way over to him before propping her elbows on the wooden railing.

"You gave me a house," she said.

Her granddad chuckled.

"You know," he replied, "I never thought I'd be able to have this before." He gestured out to their family before he continued, "My life has been a roller-coaster; it's had a lot of ups and downs but meeting you, was definitely an up."

"You gave me house," she repeated.

"Yes, I did," he said with a smile.

"Why?"

"Because," he said simply, "I want you to have a family of your own one day. If I didn't give it to you, I'd just end up selling it. It's too big for just your grandmum and me. I don't know why I bought it in the first place."

"Thank you," she said earnestly.

"You're very welcome," he said with a smile, "I could think of no one I'd rather have given it to than you… and possibly Daniel."

"Granddad!" she exclaimed with a huff. "Daniel and I still have a way to go before we get married."

"I know," he said with a smile, "But it never hurts to be prepared."

She took his hand, now weathered and aged by time, and asked, "Do you remember when you said you didn't believe in miracles?"

"Vaguely," he replied.

"You didn't believe in miracles because miracles never happened to you," she said, "but you had it all wrong."

"I did?"

Willow nodded. "You stopped believing in miracles and that's why they never happened to you. Miracles only happen to people who believe in them."

He looked thoughtful as he contemplated her words. "Do you believe in miracles now?"

She saw his eyes scan all the people in the yard before zeroing in on her grandmum. "You know," he replied with a wide smile, "I think I just might."

They both stood in silence after that. Nothing more needed to be said.

It was true that miracles happened every single day, and an old love that always felt new, well…


That was just one of many.

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