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SIYE Time:9:00 on 19th July 2024
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Taking the Train
By lilyevans_Jan30

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Category: Alternate Universe, Post-HBP, Post-DH/AB
Characters:None
Genres: Angst, Drama, Romance
Warnings: Death, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Sexual Situations
Story is Complete
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 154
Summary: While talking with Dumbledore at King's Cross, Harry comes to a different decision about his future, a decision that puts his relationship with Ginny in grave peril. Can he find a way to fix things before it's too late?
Hitcount: Story Total: 50640; Chapter Total: 5649





Author's Notes:
This is where it all comes together. I hope you like reading it as much as I liked writing it.

I know there may be those of you out there who won't agree with my decision not to kill off a major character in exchange for Harry's cheating death, but I think he has suffered enough, don't you?

One more chapter after this one - should be mostly fluff!

Lupin’s announcement about Teddy is from Chapter 25, Shell Cottage, pg. 515 of Deathly Hallows. The information on Lily and James’ graves is from Chapter 16, Godric’s Hollow, pg. 328 of Deathly Hallows. I was especially glad to be able to work Lily's birthday into the story, as it is my birthday too (hence my pen name) .




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When Harry, Ginny and Ron got back to the Burrow, most of the Weasleys were finishing up lunch. Harry’s eye was immediately drawn to Andromeda, also sitting at the table, and bouncing a fussy baby on her knee.

Harry went up to her and knelt in front of the infant in her lap. Looking into Teddy’s eyes, Harry knew exactly what to say, even though it would be years before the boy would be old enough to understand. He didn’t notice that the conversations around him quieted, didn’t notice Andromeda looking at him with a sad smile. He only focused on his godson, who had stopped crying at the sight of a new face. When Harry spoke, it was to him alone.

“Your parents were two of the greatest people I have ever known, Teddy. They were friends and teachers, and your dad especially, was like family. They loved you more than anything else in this world and they gave their lives in the hope that you could grow up free and safe and happy . . .and loved. Every second of your life. And all the people in this room, and lots more besides, are going to make sure that is so. You are never going to have to ask questions about your parents, because we are always going to be there to tell you stories, and show you pictures, and give you memories. So . . . you will never have to wonder.”

Most of the people in the Weasleys' kitchen listening to Harry talk realized that his speech had become something more than just about Teddy. Whether he ever admitted it or not, they were the words he wished someone had been around to say to him, all those years ago. Instead, Harry had known only years of lies and emptiness before he finally came to Hogwarts, and he was determined that it would be different for Teddy. Of course, truth be told, there was no chance at all that Teddy would grow up with a life that even approached Harry’s own childhood. But saying the words made him feel better, just the same.

“And . . . Teddy,” Harry continued, memories of Lupin announcing his son to all of them as “Teddy Remus Lupin, a great wizard in the making!” flooding his mind. He took a deep breath.

“Teddy, I know, better than anyone here, what it’s like to grow up without your parents. We are never going to be able to replace them, but I promise with everything I am, that you are never going to feel alone.”

More than one person was crying as Harry finished his speech. With a look to Andromeda for permission, Harry gently lifted Teddy into his arms and held him, as the tiny boy gave a huge yawn and his eyes began to drift closed, his body shuddering for a moment as sleep overtook him.

Harry looked silently down at Teddy for a long minute, and then Ginny was beside him, quietly telling him, “Mum brought down our old cradle. It’s in the sitting room.” Harry gave her a smile and handed her his bundle, turning to Andromeda to discuss the plans for the funerals, which would take place the next day.

Ginny stayed in Harry’s vicinity for much of the afternoon; their new experiment being friends was tested as they talked casually while helping Mrs. Weasley with additional cleaning. At one point, Ron tried to steer Hermione out of the room, leaving Harry and Ginny alone, but Harry saw Ginny catch his eye and with a subtle shake of her head, told him that she was not up to more alone time right now. Ginny remained cordial, but still distant until after dinner, when the family moved into the sitting room. Everyone took up favorite activities in a manner that felt unusual only because it was so familiar. Mrs. Weasley bustled around finishing her cleaning and bringing tea and hot chocolate, Ron set up the chess board and tried to entice George into a game, Hermione buried herself in a book.

Harry sat awkwardly for a moment on the sofa, not sure what he wanted to do and thinking seriously about going up to bed when Mr.Weasley sat down next to him.

“We need to talk a little bit about tomorrow, Harry, and what is going to happen at Godric’s Hollow.”

“Why?” asked Harry. “I thought everyone was set up so that the Potter family plot will accept . . . will accept Tonks and Remus.”

“That part is fine. It’s just, well, the events of the past few days have raised quite a bit of new interest in the village. There may be curious onlookers, and, well, press.”

Harry groaned and put his head in his hands.

“Kingsley has taken steps to make sure that no one other than those who have been invited can get into the graveyard, but there may be quite a few other people in the area. And we cannot Apparate or Portkey directly to the burial site; wizard graveyards are magically protected that way.”

“I’m going early anyway,” said Harry, making up his mind just at that minute. “I . . . I want to see the village in the daylight. When it is warm. And when there is no one chasing me,” he added under his breath. “I will Apparate there by myself tomorrow morning under my Invisibility Cloak and meet you all at the gravesite.”

“Can I go with you?”

To Harry’s shock, it was Ginny who had spoken. He looked at her, the question in his eyes.

“I think it might . . . help.”

“Ginny, I don’t think . . .” began Mr. Weasley.

“No, it’s okay. She can come with me,” Harry said hurriedly. He hadn’t thought about walking around Godric’s Hollow until Mr. Weasley had mentioned it, and he was not sure that taking Ginny with him was a good idea. But he knew he could not let her think he didn’t want her with him, and he was pleased that was ready to try to help herself.

Ginny smiled hesitantly at Harry and mumbled a quiet “Thanks.”

Harry nodded back at her. “Well, okay then. I will, umm, meet you down here in the morning?”

Harry went up to bed shortly thereafter, not sure what to think. He finally decided not to think at all. Luckily, his exhaustion helped him there, and he was asleep in minutes.

Down in Ginny’s room, Hermione could not help questioning the younger girl. She was genuinely concerned about the barrier between her two friends, but, if truth be told, she was also interested in understanding more about the magical break and how it was healing. Although she wouldn’t have admitted it, Hermione was excited about the possibility of going back to the Department of Mysteries to talk to the Unspeakables about the Horcruxes. It would be even better if she had solid information to give them about what was going on between Harry and Ginny.

“Ginny, what possessed you to ask Harry if you could go with him to Godric’s Hollow? You know it is probably going to be a really emotional time for Harry. Do you think you are up to it?”

Ginny looked concerned. “I honestly don’t know, Hermione. I am not sure what I was thinking when I asked to come along, and to be honest, I was kind of surprised he said yes.”

“I think Harry was surprised he said yes himself.”

Ginny sighed. “I just thought, well, that maybe I should try to do something positive towards fixing this whole thing. I mean, even though I still can’t believe he actually would want to be more than just friends, at least I can recognize how hard he is trying.”

She thought for a moment. “That is progress, isn’t it?” At Hermione’s nod, Ginny continued. “It’s the strangest feeling. I know what he is saying about how he feels, I understand his words, but I cannot feel it myself. There is something inside that says he can’t be sincere, even when at the same time, I know that I should believe him.” She grimaced. “So I just end up feeling guilty and confused and mad at myself and lonely. And then I go and do something totally mental like invite myself along on what is undoubtedly going to be a difficult and emotional field trip to his parents’ home? What good can come of that? I am still too messed up inside to be any help. I will probably only remind him of what he gave up to come back.” She looked rather disgusted with herself.

“No, Ginny, I think it is a good thing. You need to follow your impulses with this, because they seem to be leading you in the right direction.” Hermione looked earnestly at her friend. “I don’t think you would have even considered asking to go along if it didn’t feel right on some level. And Harry would not have said yes.”

“I guess we will find out tomorrow,” Ginny sighed. Like Harry, she was too tired to think much more, and like Harry, she was soon able to fall asleep.

Harry was up early the next morning. He quickly put on his dress robes, trying to be as quiet as possible so not to wake Ron. Although, he reflected to himself, there was little chance of that. Ron was a notoriously deep sleeper even in the worst of times and now, faced with the first absence of danger in over a year, he seemed to be making up for all his nights of interrupted or shallow sleep. Harry could have dropped a jar full of spiders in Ron’s bed and he doubted it would have awoken him. At least for a while.

Going down to the kitchen, Harry was unsurprised to see that both Mrs. Weasley and Ginny were already awake. Mrs. Weasley because he had never known her not to be in the kitchen if there was a chance someone was awake and hungry, and Ginny because he just knew she would be there, waiting for him. He suspected she thought that if he had come down first, he might have changed his mind and left without her. She gave him a shy smile and handed him the plate of food she had been preparing.

“Thanks, Ginny. But, I, umm, think I just want some toast right now. I’m not really that hungry.”

Her smile wavered, but she nodded and sat down at the table next to him, where a platter of toast and dish of butter already sat. Harry contemplated the butter dish with some sad nostalgia, remembering those days when the awkwardness between him and Ginny was as simple as a young girl’s embarrassing crush. No use thinking about that now, he supposed.

Turning to Ginny he put his hand on her arm, and had a bit of satisfaction that she only startled a bit, but did not flinch or freeze. “Are you ready to go? I will take you side-along apparition, if that is okay. You don’t know where you are going.”

She nodded her agreement, and they both rose and said goodbye to Mrs. Weasley.

“Remember, be at the . . . the site, a little before eleven,” she said.

Harry put the invisibility cloak over both of them and told Ginny to grab his arm tightly. But as he prepared to Disapparate, she turned her head in such a way that he suddenly got a whiff of the flowery scent that he had first identified in the Amortentia in his Sixth Year potions class. That unmistakable smell he associated with being close to Ginny. It was a smell that had assaulted his senses every time they had kissed. Every time she had rested her head on his chest while they relaxed on a common room sofa or under a tree, when she had lain next to him in bed after a nightmare, or when he had awoken with her in his arms when they fell asleep after an intense snogging session. The smell of being together. Of being Them. Or, as she used to say with a satisfied smile, “We are not just Harry and Ginny anymore. We are Us.” Us. That one word that had filled him with a warmth he had never known before, or since.

For a second, Harry lost sight of why they were standing there together, in the Weasley’s kitchen, under his cloak. He only knew that suddenly, his arm was around Ginny and he was holding her as tightly as he could. She didn’t move either, and it was only when Harry instinctively bent down towards her lips that she shuddered and looked at him with scared eyes. The look jerked Harry back to himself, and the sound of a dish clattering in the background reminded him where they were and that Ginny’s mother was only steps away. Without another word, he turned them both on the spot and apparated to the square in Godric’s Hollow.

Ginny didn’t say anything about what had happened in the kitchen. Whether she was embarrassed or simply too busy taking in the sight of his birthplace, Harry did not know, but he was relieved not to have to discuss it just then.

It was still early, so there were not too many people outside in the village. Still, Harry could recognize a number of wizards milling about, mixed in with the Muggles who were walking more purposefully around the statute in the middle of the square. As it had been the last time he had seen the thing, the statue in the center first appeared to be an ordinary war memorial. He felt Ginny’s intake of breath, still close to him under the cloak, when it suddenly transformed into the figures of his parents, holding a small boy. No longer covered with snow, the memorial had gained the addition of flower garlands and streamers, no doubt placed there in recent days.

Ginny could not take her eyes off the statue. “It’s strange, seeing it,” she said, almost to herself. “I know this is where everything started, but seeing it like that, seeing you, as a baby . . .” She trailed off, but Harry knew what she meant. Everything seemed more real here. More unbelievable at the same time. How strange it was to stand here, almost a man, having fought and beaten evil only days ago, and gaze at a statue commemorating a fight against that same evil that he could not even remember, but that had defined his entire life. A thought struck him then and he groaned out loud, drawing strange looks from the few people closest by. Someone would probably want to erect another statue of him, somewhere. It was the kind of thing that would mean nothing to him but that would make people feel better, about what, Harry wasn’t sure.

“Not if I can help it,” he muttered, and Ginny looked up at him in understanding. “I am sure Kingsley will have a better idea,” she said. “And he won’t do anything without your permission.” Harry smiled gratefully at her. “Let’s walk towards the house. I think if we go down that lane, we can take off the cloak.”

Harry didn’t know how Ginny felt when they were finally free of the invisibility cloak and able to walk apart again. He felt a loss, not just of her scent and her warmth, but it was as if the barrier that still lay between them had fallen a bit under the cloak, but now sprung up again. There was an awkwardness between them as they walked down the lane that led to the home where Harry had been born.

As they walked, Harry was having an internal battle with himself. He had always wanted to show Ginny his birthplace, especially since he himself had first seen it with Hermione last Christmas. But he couldn’t help but wonder if he was making a mistake by bringing Ginny here now, before things were better between them. He didn’t have a really good idea about he himself felt about being back in Godric’s Hollow, how could he expect Ginny to understand, given the state they were in?

She surprised him, though.

As they approached the ruins of his first home, Ginny quietly took his hand.

Harry started to say something, but then bit back his words, instead, he tightened his grip in hers, enjoying more than he could convey the feeling of just walking with her.

No one stood outside the fence that surrounded the house, but it had obviously been the site of a number of celebrations in recent days. As they stood looking at the structure, more and more words of congratulations and encouragement and joy appeared on the railings. Many just said “Thanks”, but others were more effusive, praising the “Hero Again of the Wizarding World” and “The Boy Who Lived to Become the Man Who Lived,” and his least favorite, “The Chosen One Who Chose to Save Us All”. He knew the sentiments were real, but they bothered him all the same. They reminded him of the choices, and mistakes he had made, of the friends who had worked and fought as hard as he had, and those who had sacrificed much more. Why did he get all the attention?

“You have been linked to Voldemort in everyone’s mind for over seventeen years, Harry.”

Ginny had noticed him tense up and answered his unspoken question. “You were the one that faced him in the Great Hall. You were the one that he wanted to kill more than anything, and you killed him instead. You may not like it, but people’s reactions cannot be helped. Especially the reactions of those who were not there.” She shuddered, remembering for a second, and Harry instinctively put his arm around her.

“That’s just it. They don’t know. They don’t know that without Ron and Hermione with me this past year, without all of you fighting underground at Hogwarts, without Neville, and the Order, and your family and all the people who joined the battle, then we wouldn’t be able to be here, alive. And neither would they.”

“And no one is going to let anyone forget that,” said Ginny firmly. “I have a feeling you won’t let them.” She smirked a bit. “Especially if someone tries to get you to make a speech.”

Harry groaned. “Do you think they are going to want me to make a speech?”

“I think they are going to want you to make a lot of speeches. And some people are going to want to build a big statue, just to you. Put it in the middle of the Ministry of Magic. Probably with diamonds tracing out your scar while you brandish your wand or something.”

“Yeah, as I yell out my deadly ‘Expelliarmus.’”

Ginny laughed, and it was like rain after a long summer of drought. Without even realizing it, the two of them had fallen into the easy banter that had marked the days of their friendship, before that kiss in the common room had changed everything. But a lot had not changed, Harry realized. He and Ginny had become friends more than a year earlier than that kiss, and their friendship had been based on much more than any crush or physical attraction or hope of more. Being friends with her had been easy, even when they had to deal with things that were hard, like her father’s injuries by Nagini or the debacle at the Department of Mysteries. It should not be surprising to Harry that falling back into that friendship felt so natural; it was only unnatural because he hadn’t seen it coming.

It had been the right thing to bring Ginny here, he realized. She might not be ready for anything more than friendship, but as he thought about it, Harry knew that he wanted her here, and that in her current state, she was able to give him what he needed. There was a lot of magic here. A lot of his family’s magic. Maybe this was what was needed to bring Ginny all the way back. He remembered something, then, that his father had told him on the train. When the magic was especially strong, they could see him well. They were right there, with him.

What if the magic was strong enough for him to see them, once more, for Ginny to see them?

Harry didn’t stop to consider the logic of his thoughts. It made perfect sense to him all of a sudden. He needed to go to the house. Where everything had begun. Where it could have been different. And Ginny needed to go with him.

Grabbing her hand he climbed over the fence that surrounded the house and its garden. He barely noticed the flash of red, then gold that shot up as he breached the wards. But Ginny did, and so did a couple of early sightseers — a curious wizard and his wife and young son. The man yelled out, “You can’t go in there! It’s warded against intruders —you’ll get hurt!”

But as Harry had instinctively known, nothing harmed him as he walked purposefully up the lawn with Ginny. Nothing stopped her either, and behind him, the wizard’s son tried to follow, climbing up on the fence stile and throwing a leg over, only to cry out as if shocked and fall back.

“We are going to see them, Ginny. I know it. It’s the last thing you need to fix the break. You can meet them . . . and then everything will be all right.”

“Harry . . .” Ginny began. She stopped and looked at him and seemed to understand something. “Okay then. If you think so.”

Harry registered vaguely in his brain how far she had come. She didn’t doubt or question. Ginny understood. This was it. The magic in this place was doing it. He was going to get her back. And she was going to meet his mum and dad, first.

But as Harry walked towards the house, holding tight to Ginny’s hand, his thoughts started to stray. A flicker of doubt crept in, and then a torrent.

For someone who grew up an orphan, Harry recognized, he had actually seen more of his parents than most would believe. In his head, he ticked off the times: First Year, in the Mirror of Erised, Fourth Year, out of Voldemort’s wand, in the Forbidden Forest, returned to him with the Resurrection Stone, and then, of course, on the train. More than he could have ever expected.

More than he deserved.

Harry faltered. The house loomed before them, its ruined wing staring him in the face. Even though he knew it was impossible, he suddenly imagined he could see the remains of a cradle inside the broken walls, the vision of a blue and white room adorned with bears and broomsticks assaulted his senses. But it wasn’t real. He didn’t need to be here.

He didn’t want to be here.

And suddenly Harry saw it with even more clarity. He looked away from the house, away from the small crowd of people that had gathered at the fence, and looked right at Ginny.

“Thoughts of them watching over me have sustained me through many dark times. I needed to know them so that I felt I had a place in this world. That there was a reason for me to be here and a reason that they weren’t. But . . . when faced with the absolute worst, when faced with dying itself, I didn’t think of them. I thought of you. They took me as far as they could, into their world, but I . . . I need to be here."

Harry stumbled and would have fallen to his knees had Ginny not been there. With a strength he had forgotten she possessed, she held him up, and then put her hand gently on his neck and pressed his head into her shoulder as he took deep, shuddering breaths. When he finally gained control, Harry looked at her, understanding flooding his eyes, and hers.

“It’s time to go say goodbye.”

He was not only talking about Remus and Tonks, and she knew it.

********************** ***********************

Where Fred’s funeral had been hell, the one for Remus and Tonks was rather surreal. After gaining control of his emotions as well as he could, Harry apparated them both to the church outside the graveyard at the edge of the village. A crowd of the curious had gathered, along with several reporters and photographers. He had not thought to pull the invisibility cloak over them again and the crowd raised a cry as he and Ginny appeared. Fortunately, the two were soon overtaken by a swarm of Weasley red, and the group hurried through the warded gates and into the graveyard proper.

This time, they did not have to search for his parents’ graves. A tent had been erected over the site and once again Harry was facing the white marble headstone and his parents’ names:

JAMES POTTER - LILY POTTER

Born 27 March 1960 Born 30 January 1960

Died 31 October 1981 Died 31 October 1981

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

Harry understood the quotation much better now than he had the first time he had seen it. Death could be defeated, he saw now. Not in some scheme for immortality like a Death Eater, and not by trying to keep open some portal to those who had gone on, so they could be visited occasionally, like friends who lived in a distant land. Death could only be destroyed by living. And living well, with both memories and with a view of the wonders of the future. He turned to Ginny to find her staring at his parents’ graves, tears in her eyes. She gave him a watery smile.

“The tears I couldn’t cry for you when you yelled at me in the forest,” she explained.

Harry blushed, remembering.

“Ginny, I,” he began.

“Hush, Harry. It’s forgotten.”

He took her hand as the same witch who had presided over Fred’s funeral once again began the wizarding rites of death. Harry looked to the left of his parents’ graves and focused on the new marble headstone that stood there:

REMUS LUPIN NYMPHADORA TONKS LUPIN

Born 10 March 1960 Born 26 February 1973

Died 2 May 1997 Died 2 May 1997

So that others may live, hope, and prosper

“They understood,” said Ginny.

“What?”

“Remus and Tonks,” Ginny explained. “They understood that by dying themselves, they were beating death. Because we're all alive. Because we can live.”

Harry squeezed her hand tightly. Sacrifices that he wished did not need to be made. But maybe now, there would be no need for more. The witch droned on and as Harry looked out over the graveyard, he knew he wasn’t going to see his parents again. That wasn’t the way it worked. A tear rolled down his face as he contemplated the graves again.

“They are here, you know. Even though we don’t get to see them.”

“Your parents?”

“Yeah. And Remus and Tonks. Hell, Sirius is probably watching too, he wouldn’t want to be left out.”

Ginny giggled quietly through her tears. “Nah, he is probably off getting in trouble with Fred.”

“Yeah.”

The service ended and appropriately, Teddy, in Andromeda’s arms, picked that moment to wake up from his nap and begin to wail. The family began moving quickly towards the kissing gate at the edge of the cemetery, eager to get back to the Burrow.

Harry lingered, and Ginny did not move from his side. It was time to let go now, Harry knew it. Time to fix the mistake he had made and fix things with Ginny for good. She was almost there, she was waiting for him. Harry knew she would not rush him.

But it was harder than he thought it would be. The actual saying goodbye. It was for real. The journey of his life, which had followed a pre-set path for seventeen years, was going to veer off into the unknown. Harry knew what he wanted. Was Ginny ready to want it too? He had to be sure. And yet, he did not want to force her.

Harry put his hands into his pockets, looking for a tissue to wipe away the tears that still lingered on her face. Instead, his hand closed around something at once familiar and odd. He pulled his hand out of his pocket and contemplated Ginny’s hair ribbon, the one he had taken from her room at Hogwarts several days before. With it, sitting in his palm, were two lemon drops that he was sure had not been there before.

And Harry knew what he had to do. Although he had had a moment of certainty in the forest that he had the words to make it all right, he now knew that nothing he would have said then would have made a difference. It wasn’t words, now. They had enough words.

“Hermione!” Harry yelled towards his friend, who was walking hand in hand with Ron. She stopped, and looked up at him with curious eyes.

“We need to go to the Department of Mysteries. Now.”

“Now? Why? You don’t want to go talk to them about Horcruxes now, do you?”

“No, not Horcruxes,” said Harry impatiently. “Something else. I need to see something there.” He looked at Ginny. “We need something there.”

Hermione wisely did not ask any more questions. Quickly making excuses to the rest of the Weasleys and Andromeda, the four Apparated to the Ministry of Magic, Harry hidden under his Invisibility Cloak. Once there, they followed Hermione as she checked them in (skipping mention of Harry, still under his cloak), and walked briskly towards the lift. After waiting for one that was sufficiently empty to allow Harry to slip in without tramping on anyone, they descended to the ninth level.

“Department of Mysteries,” said the same cool, female voice that Harry still remembered from his previous trips to the Ministry. Odd, to be here without the weight of nervousness or fear on him; his only three visits had all been marked by both: his disciplinary hearing, the failed attempt to rescue Sirius and their successful, but equally frightening mission to reclaim the locket Horcrux from Umbridge, only nine months earlier. Hermione didn’t seem to be bothered by the place, but then she had been here only days ago to talk to the Unspeakables about Harry’s dilemma. Ron looked considerably more ill at ease, no doubt remembering their last desperate trip here, and Ginny . . . Ginny looked close to terrified.

Harry realized that the last time Ginny had been here, they had traveled the same route down to the Department of Mysteries, and all of them had almost met their end. Sirius had died here, and Bellatrix and the other Death Eaters had tried very hard to get them to follow. Harry pulled off his cloak and took Ginny’s hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze.

“I promise, only good things this time,” he said to her, hoping that his instinct was right; at the same time, certain that it was.

She squeezed his hand back, and with the same understanding she had begun showing him in Godric’s Hollow, simply answered, “I know.”

Stepping off the elevator, they walked down the eerily familiar long hallway to the black door that had haunted Harry’s dreams all fifth year. But this time the door opened easily to reveal the round, door-filled room at the center of the Department. Hermione called out “Main office!” and one of the doors swung open to reveal the office inside, robed Unspeakables moving around between desks. Hermione walked up and knocked on the frame, beckoning them all to come in.

A female Unspeakable looked up, giving a smile when she saw who was there. “Hermione! Back so soon to talk about Horcruxes?”

Hermione shook her head. “Not yet Aurora. I am here on that, umm, other business we discussed.”

The Unspeakable Aurora looked over at Harry and Ginny, still holding hands, and nodded. “It seems much progress has been made already.”

Harry spoke next. “Yes, it has. And I want to thank you for your help. Without you helping Hermione figure out what was going on, I probably would have given up.”

The Unspeakable looked severely at Harry. “I hope you understand, death is not something to be underestimated. That you were able to make the choices you did, and seem to be making still, is remarkable. Not many could do what you did and come back this far.” She nodded in the direction of Harry’s and Ginny’s hands, and then addressed Ginny herself, in a much gentler voice.

“How are you feeling, Ginny, is it?” Ginny nodded.

“Better, I think. Not perfect, but . . . I am finding myself, and believing in myself again. And in Harry. I . . . I think I am starting to accept what I need and what I want, although I do not feel sure about ever getting those things back. But I am starting to hear Harry’s emotions better and better. And I want to keep doing that.”

This was news to Harry. He recognized that Ginny had been slowly coming back over the course of that day, but he had not considered exactly what that meant. Listening to her candidly explain to the Unspeakable, and to him, Ron and Hermione how she felt made him realize how close they were. It felt almost electric inside, the wanting to get it done. He turned towards Aurora.

“Can I speak to you for a minute, in private?”

At her nod, the two of them walked to a corner of the room and Harry waved his wand around in a combination that both Ron and Hermione recognized as setting a Silencing Charm. They saw Harry speaking, saw the Unspeakable look somewhat surprised, but nod at Harry, and then point out of the office. Harry nodded and shook her hand, and then raised the Silencing Charm. He walked over to Ginny.

“I knew it,” he said.

“Knew what?” asked Hermione, looking slightly put out that Harry might know something about the Department that she did not.

“Umm, I need to tell Ginny first.” He turned to her and held out his hand. “Come with me?”

Ginny nodded and took Harry’s hand as he led her out of the office back into the circular antechamber.

He closed his eyes and thought for a moment, then called out “We need to see our heart’s desire!”

The room spun around them and then stopped, a door opening to their right.

Hoping he was not mistaken, Harry led Ginny into the room, which was almost empty. A single Unspeakable sat writing at a table. He looked up when the two entered.

“Aurora informed me you were coming. She said you already knew that it was here?” He indicated the center of the room, where the large, ornately carved Mirror of Erised stood, as if it had never been anywhere else.

Harry’s mouth was suddenly very dry. “Uhh, yes. I, I just knew . . .”

The Unspeakable did not ask any questions about how Harry knew the Mirror would be there; given his line of work, it was probably not so surprising.

“You know how it works, then? Each of you has to look at it on your own, one at a time.”

Harry nodded and looked at Ginny. “Do you want to go first?”

Ginny looked nervous but resolute. “Okay.” She walked up to the Mirror slowly. Harry could tell by her face when the image appeared; her eyes grew wide and a smile began to play around the edge of her lips. After a minute, she nodded slowly at the reflection, smiling a bit wider and looking at it in near amazement, a tear slipping down her cheek.

Harry had to go to her. Careful not to get in her way, he came up behind Ginny and wrapped his arms around her, breathing into her hair as she gazed at the Mirror.

She leaned back into him. “It knows, Harry. It really knows. How did it get it exactly right?”

With his face still in her hair, Harry murmured. “The Mirror always knows our heart’s desire, even when we may not see it clearly ourselves.”

“Well take a look then, Harry. Lift up your head so I can see your heart’s desire in the Mirror.”

“It doesn’t work that way,” Harry started to say, but when he raised his head, the words caught in his throat.

The first time Harry had shown the Mirror to Ron, years before, the two boys had tussled over the right to see his own heart’s desire. Neither could see the image that showed itself to the other, and neither could see their own unless they stood directly in front of the glass. But that was not the case now.

Ginny stood in front of the Mirror, still apparently enamored at the vision before her. And Harry, standing behind her, saw the reflection that had been haunting his thoughts for days. The very sight that had caused him to jump off the train, in search of the future he wanted more than anything: The two of them, happy, holding hands, surrounded by their own family. So simple.

He gazed at the sight with as much awe and longing as ever, wrapping his arms more tightly around Ginny and watching entranced as one of the little boys suddenly licked his finger and stuck it in his brother’s ear. Ginny’s giggles brought him out of his reverie.

“Fred and George used to do that to the rest of us all the time. They called it ‘giving a wet willie.’”

Harry was quite familiar with wet willies as well; they had been one of Dudley’s preferred methods of quick torture growing up. But the import of Ginny’s words took another second to sink in.

“Wha-what? You see that? The two boys?”

Ginny looked at him in surprise. “Of course I do. That is what I have been looking at all this time. You, me, the boys, and the little girl with pigtails.” She looked enquiringly at Harry before asking softly, “Our children?”

Harry swallowed hard, then nodded. He had no words for a moment.

Ginny broke the silence. “I see how you could have mistaken us for your mum and dad. And the oldest boy looks a lot like you.”

Harry felt, and not just heard, the forgiveness in her voice. He nodded again and then spoke thickly, still not quite comprehending what was going on.

“I . . . I don’t know how it’s happening, but . . . what you see, exactly what you see . . . is my heart’s desire. And it always has been.”

“Harry,” Ginny spoke softly back to him, the smile and wonder quite evident in her voice. “Don’t you understand? What you are looking at . . . it’s my heart’s desire too.”

Harry could see in the mirror as his reflected eyes suddenly got very bright. The reflection mimicked his own pose, putting his arms around Ginny from behind and kissing her hair. The Unspeakable standing silently in the room watched in amazement as Harry and Ginny stood before the Mirror, both watching in wonder a single reflection that only they could see. He had never known the Mirror to behave like that before; no matter how similar the desires that two people might have, there would almost always be subtle differences that would prevent them from seeing the same thing in the Mirror at the same time. Of course, the Unspeakable could not see the reflection for himself to be sure, but there was no mistaking the gold burst of magical light that surrounded the pair as they stood gazing at the single desire they both shared with all their hearts.

Neither of them spoke, but Harry felt a sense of peace and calm wash over him and envelope Ginny in its path as well. She sighed with contentment and snuggled into him and Harry knew she was back. And not just back to where they had been a year ago, before he had broken things off, not just back to the Ginny that had colored every dream and thought during the long year apart. She was more, somehow. Whether it was because of everything they had gone through in the past days or simply because they had both grown over the past year, Harry didn’t know. He liked to think this was the Ginny he would have had anyway, because he did not want to give any credit to his mistake for making things so good now. For despite Dumbledore’s warnings about the Mirror’s limitations, he felt more certain than he had ever felt about anything in his life that he and Ginny were gazing into their own future.

“James,” Ginny said suddenly.

Harry chuckled. “Now you are the one getting confused, Ginny. I’m Harry.”

She gave him a jokingly exasperated hmmpf.

“I know who you are, Harry. I mean, that’s James. The older one there.”

“The one who is torturing his younger brother?”

“Yes. James Sirius.”

Harry smirked. “That seems appropriate. He is definitely not getting my Invisibility Cloak, that one.” He smiled. “And the girl?” he asked, already knowing the answer.

“Lily, of course. I kind of like Lily Luna.”

“Luna will be pleased to hear that. Of course, she probably already knows, somehow.”

Ginny giggled as they watched James conjure a spider with his wand and dangle it in front of his brother, who jumped and whimpered. “He’s not getting the Marauder’s Map, either,” she said dryly. “What should we name the second boy?”

Harry knew immediately, but he wondered what Ginny would say. He realized she didn’t even know the entire story of what happened the night Voldemort was killed.

“Well, I would like to name him Albus Severus.”

Ginny was quiet for a moment. “Either you have recently been hit hard with a Bludger or you have a really good reason that you will share with me someday.”

It felt more than wonderful for Harry to be able to say to her “I am going to share everything with you. Not someday, but every day. And yes, I have a very, very good reason for my choice.”

“Then I trust you. But let’s call him Al for short, okay?”

Harry laughed and squeezed her again, marveling, as he had when they had joked about building a statue to him, that it felt so easy to be with her. Even the pain and sadness and worry of the past several days seemed to be simply melting away. It couldn’t be happening this quickly and naturally, could it? But as Ginny continued to look into the Mirror, identifying for Harry various Weasley cousins he only vaguely remembered from Bill and Fleur’s wedding, and musing about what Ron and Hermione would name the two bushy-haired children standing towards the back, Harry knew that it was happening that fast, and that easily. And that it was right. And good.

A slight noise behind them made them finally turn away from the images in the Mirror. The Unspeakable looked like he hadn’t wanted to intrude on the moment.

“I am sorry to interrupt. I am going to leave now. Take as long as you want. When you get back to the circular room, ask for the office and the correct door with open for you.” He smiled them. “I don’t know if you know it, but what the two of you experienced with the Mirror is as rare as anything I have seen in the twenty-two years I have worked here.” He left then, shutting the door behind him.

Harry hugged Ginny, who had gone back to gazing hungrily at the Mirror, as if she could never get enough of the sight. “Dumbledore once told me that men have wasted away in front of it, never knowing if what they saw was real, or even possible. But we know that what we see is both real and possible. It’s our future. It’s our heart’s desire. It’s . . .”

“Us.” Ginny finished his thought. “It’s us.” She turned to him and smiled. “I am ready to go start being us now. Preferably in places other than an underground room in the Department of Mysteries.”

“I think we can stay here maybe just a minute or two longer,” said Harry softly, leaning in towards her. She didn’t shy away, but tilted her head up to him, her eyes wide, and finally, trusting.

The kiss was soft, sweet and perfect. A first kiss, if there ever was one.

The second was perfect too, although slightly less soft. As Harry felt Ginny melt into him he started to get lost in a way that made him hope he could never be found. He wanted to stand there forever doing nothing but kiss Ginny, he wanted to hold her in his arms and not talk, he wanted to lay next to her in bed and talk about everything under the sun, he wanted to chase her through the woods at the Burrow and jump laughing, into the pond, he wanted to make love to her. Forcing his lips away from hers, Harry knew he would do all that, and more, as he took Ginny’s hand and walked towards the door. She was right, after all. There were many, many better places to be, right now.

But at the same time, being right here was everything he needed.

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