|SIYE Time:6:27 on 15th August 2022|
Category: Alternate Universe
Genres: Angst, Drama, Romance
Warnings: Mild Language
Story is Complete
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.
Hitcount: Story Total: 3456; Chapter Total: 360
Awards: View Trophy Room
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.
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.
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