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That night Harry did enjoy supper at the Burrow and he and his friends told of Australia and how their trip went (minus some key emotional details) and what they saw. Harry did not stay the night, however, and chose to spend the night at Grimmauld Place. He told the others they could meet him there in the morning so they could set out to retrieve the Dursleys. It was going to be a reunion that Harry admitted to himself he was feeling quite agitated about.

When Ron, Hermione and Ginny arrived in the morning the four of them agreed that they would Apparate again to an area near their destination, in this case a wooded hill near the house the Dursleys were in. The safe house was on the outskirts of a Muggle town and was rather secluded but still they did not want to risk the chance of being seen and did not want to sneak up on the guards at the house who had remained as a precautionary measure just in case.

“Got a good hold?” Harry asked Ginny before he Apparated.

“Yeah,” she answered tightening her grip on his arm.

“See you on the hill,” he told Ron and Hermione.

“We’ll be right behind you,” Hermione said taking Ron’s hand.

The woods they Apparated into weren’t as dense as the Dark Forest and some sun filtered down through the trees. Ginny recovered from Apparating quicker than last time and when Ron and Hermione appeared a few yards away they walked over to join them. Harry used his wand as a compass to get his bearings then pointed toward where they needed to go.

“It’s this way.”

“So, Harry, how do you think they’ll react to seeing you?” Ron asked.

“Dunno, maybe relieved they can go home and probably still mad at me for being the reason they had to relocate for a year.”

“You really think they’ll be mad? I mean you’ve saved both the Muggle and the Wizarding world. You don’t think they’ll be thankful?” Ginny wondered.

“Honestly, Ginny,” Harry said with a sigh, “no I don’t. I don’t think my Uncle’s opinion of me will ever change no matter what I do.”

“It’s horrible the way they’ve treated you, Harry,” Ron said shaking his head in dismay. “You should have seen it, Ginny, they treated him like a prisoner, practically starving him. Boy, I’d like to teach them a lesson,” Ron whacked a low branch with his hand in anger.

“That won’t help any and it won’t change the past,” Harry said wisely. “Let’s just go get them, help them pack and escort them to Privet Drive.”

“How are we doing that exactly?” Hermione asked.

“I sent a message to Kingsley last night telling him we would be retrieving the Dursleys today,” Harry told them as he walked along a moss and lichen covered log. “Thor came back with a message from Kingsley that said Dedalus Diggle and someone else trustworthy would be there to meet us at the safe house. We’ll be taking my Uncle’s car with a trick we learned from Ginny and Ron’s dad,” Harry explained.

“Oh, ok,” Hermione dodged some low hanging branches. “So Thor’s settled in then?”

“That’s just the thing, I haven’t had a single problem with him. I think he just needed to stretch his wings and to be treated kindly, he needed someone who understood him. He delivered my letter quite fast actually.”

“That’s good,” Hermione said carefully stepping around some tall ferns. The sun brightened up ahead so Harry knew they were getting close. As they broke into the clearing they could easily see a small cottage with a white-washed exterior. Harry led them across the grassy lawn.

They walked around to the front and Harry knocked on the front door. They could hear a commotion coming from the inside that probably drowned out the sound of Harry’s polite knock. Harry heard his Uncle Vernon yelling about something but with his usual temper so that most of his words were incoherent. Harry tried knocking again and this time someone answered.

Dedalus,” the witch who had opened the door called out over the din, “they’re here!”

“I tell you we’re tired of being moved from one place to another, enough is enough! I’m going home and I’m taking my family with me whether you effing like it or not!”

“You are going home, Uncle Vernon, if you shut your pie hole long enough to listen you’d probably know that,” Harry stated as he walked into the sitting room where all three Dursleys were with Dedalus Diggle, their luggage at their feet.

“Harry?” Petunia Dursley said in a voice that was barely more than a whisper but carried well in the silence that followed Harry’s entrance into the room. “Is it over then?”

“Yes.”

“So we can go home now?” Dudley asked even though Harry had already said as much.

“Yes, that’s why we’re here, to escort and help you to get home safely,” Harry told him.

“‘Safely’, I thought you just said it was all over?” Uncle Vernon asked testily.

“The war is over, Voldemort is no longer a threat but a few Dark Wizards are still on the loose. It’s merely a precaution,” Harry answered trying to keep his temper.

“When you say ‘no longer a threat’ do you mean he’s in hiding again or…?” Petunia asked that made Harry remember she was indeed his mother Lily’s sister.

“He’s dead,” Harry said simply.

“Well then, now that everyone’s calmed down why don’t we get a move on,” Diggle suggested.

“Er, not to be rude,” Vernon said in a voice that most definitely was rude, “but how are we all going seeing as there is only the one car?”

“Expansion Charm, makes the car fit twice as many people on the inside without changing the outward appearance,” Hermione quickly explained.

“You are not putting a ruddy spell on my car!”

“Well the only other alternative is by Floo unless of course you’d like to stay here?” Harry told him, his patience waning.

“Don’t get smart with me, boy,” Vernon Dursley said wagging his thick stubby finger in Harry’s face.

“Don’t talk to Harry like that,” Ginny told him in a low tone that was quite menacing.

“And who the bloody hell are you?” Vernon demanded.

“Forget it, Ginny, old habits die hard. Let’s just get going,” Harry tried calming everyone.

“Get your Aunt’s bags,” Uncle Vernon ordered Harry.

“Fine,” Harry said then without hesitation pulled out his wand, “Locomotor Luggage! Is this it?” Harry asked as he guided his Aunt’s bags out the front door Ron was holding open as he tried to hide a smile and Uncle Vernon’s face grew redder.

“No, that’s all of it,” Petunia answered meekly turning her face away from the blatant display of magic.

The drive to Privet Drive in Little Whinging, Surrey was a quiet and tense one. Vernon was driving rather fast ad recklessly, Dudley looked like he wanted to say something but chose not to, Petunia was trying to act indifferent looking out the windshield but her gaze kept surreptitiously glancing down at Harry’s drawn wand. Harry, Petunia and Dudley were up front with Uncle Vernon. Dedalus, Ron, Hermione, Ginny and the witch, whose name was Beatrice, were squished together in the back. When they finally arrived at Number Four Privet Drive Harry and Ron manually carried in Petunia’s bags. Beatrice Mode and Dedalus Diggle followed them into the house and insisted on inspected every room for anything sinister.

As Harry accompanied them to each room Beatrice told him she had spent the past year on the run and had crossed paths with Kingsley during her travels and had been recruited by him for the cause. She remained guarded even when shaking Harry’s hand in farewell. Dedalus Diggle did not hold back his enthusiasm and shook Harry’s hand energetically and even gave him a hug and pat on the back as he thanked Harry once again for all he had done for the Wizarding World. When Harry rejoined the others in the living room he came to find Ginny, Ron and Hermione having a strange silent stare down with the Dursleys.

“All the rooms are clean,” Harry told them.

“No they’re not, there’s almost a year’s worth of dust on everything,” Aunt Petunia complained.

“I meant there are no booby-traps or anything like that.”

“Oh.”

“You thought they’d want to booby-trap out trap?” Dudley asked speaking finally.

“Not really, just being precautious.”

Uncle Vernon didn’t verbally comment but his loud grunt spoke volumes to the fact that he considered anything Harry said was rubbish. He walked upstairs taking his bags with him. Hermione took out her wand which made Dudley and Petunia tense up then watch with guarded curiosity when Hermione began magically cleaning and dusting the place. Ginny started pulling off the sheets that had been draped over the furniture. The two girls went room by room until the house was just as spotless as Petunia Dursley had left it.

“Aunt Petunia?”

“What?” she answered a testily as she sank onto the couch beside Dudley.

“There was something I wanted to tell you. Something I think you ought to know,” Harry began as he sat opposite her in a chair. “A past acquaintance of yours and a friend of my mother’s bestowed upon me some information, some…memories that made a lot of things make sense--”

“If this is about that boy, Severus I think his name was, I don’t want to hear about it,” She said sternly cutting Harry off. “He was…he did horrible things.”

“I know but you need to listen just this once so maybe you’ll understand. Believe me I’d be the last person to defend Severus Snape but you need to know the truth.”

“What does it matter?” she asked, her temper reaching its pinnacle, her voce rising in pitch with it.

“Everything, it means everything, makes sense of everything, even if it doesn’t justify everything he’d done. It puts all the pieces in place so it makes everything that happened make sense, it puts it into perspective.”

“You think I even care?”

“Yes, I do, even though you try very hard to make people think that you don’t. I know that at first you weren’t so against magic, fascinated and a little frightened by Lily’s displays of it, but you weren’t repulsed by it. Maybe you were a little envious of my mother and disappointed when Dumbledore wrote back to you telling you you could not go to Hogwarts because you were not magically inclined. But all of that is in the past, Lily was your sister and she loved you in spite of your treatment towards her. You do her memory a disservice by your continued insistence that she was a freak. She never thought of you that way and she often defended you.”

“What does any of this have to do with that boy?” Petunia said angrily, dashing away a tear in frustration. “Did he tell you about that letter? Did he also tell you he and Lily read my mail without permission? Did he tell you how he attacked me? Did he?”

“I’d hardly call a falling branch an attack.”

“How about how he used to spy on Lily? How he pulled her in and let her believe in his friendship only to betray her feelings. Did he speak of that?”

“He was a lost little boy from a poor family. His father was abusive and Lily was his one and only true friend who only ever saw him through kind and gentle eyes as no one else could or would. He made choices later on that he knew were wrong. He was young and impressionable, his opinion easily swayed. He fell into the wrong crowd, they certainly fed him with their opinion and ideas as they did to several other boys and girls at the time. He hated my father and after an altercation with him he said something to my mother he could never take back no matter how badly he wanted to. Lily and Severus went their separate ways but their was one thing that never changed.”

“Oh really, and what might that be?” Aunt Petunia said, her voice icy and her arms crossed.

“He was in love with her. It’s why after her death he risked everything to try and make amends. He did horrible things in his past, yes, but he repented, he felt remorse. It’s why so many times when I should have been killed I wasn’t, because he was always there protecting me. He saved my life because he loved Lily even though all I ever did was remind him of my father. He was sorry for what he’d done.”

“I still don’t understand what that has to do with me. Why would I care?” Petunia said haughtily.

“You should care, you do care, I know it! You were the only other person under this roof who understood what was at risk if Voldemort couldn’t be defeated. You knew how dangerous he was, what he was capable of, on some level you comprehended that. You made sure that this family would be safe, even if that meant going into hiding.”

“How could I not after what you had said. We didn’t have to know about your world to know something was wrong. Anyone could see it,” she scoffed.

“What is going on down here?” Uncle Vernon asked as he waddled into the room.

“Nothing, we were just about to leave,” Ginny walked toward the door as if on cue.

“What happened to him?” Petunia asked in a trance staring at the blank wall behind Harry. Harry wasn’t sure what made her ask, perhaps the thought that she would never have the opportunity to do so again.

“What was that, Petunia?” Vernon asked his wife.

“Harry, what happened to Severus?”

“He was killed. He protected everyone for as long as he could until his time ran out and Voldemort had him killed.” A silence filled the room as Uncle Vernon realized his wife had been discussing about a wizard and possibly more with Harry. Harry finally walked toward the door and just before he walked outside he heard his Aunt Petunia’s voice behind him so softly he almost missed it.

“I didn’t hate her. Lily was my sister and I loved her but they took her away from me, from all of us. I could never hate her, just what she had become.”

“She could never become anything other than what she always was. They didn’t take her away from you, you pushed her away. You had a whole world to gain if you could’ve only looked past the differences. It’s all in the past now but maybe it’s not too late to make peace with it all. This is the address of the town where she’s buried if ever you wanted to visit,” Harry handed her a slip of paper he had had in his pocket all day just in case. “Goodbye, Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon, Dudley,” he nodded to each of them in turn.

Harry walked outside and was surprised when Dudley followed him out. Ron and Hermione shared wary glances. Ginny stepped closer to Harry.

“Dudley?”

“I-uh, I just wanted to say goodbye,” Dudley said rather lamely.

“Oh, well, goodbye then, Dudley,” Harry said holding out his hand. Dudley shook it firmly with his meaty hand.

“Keep in touch, Cousin,” Dudley said in parting then he went back inside.

“Well, that was…” Harry began.

“Awkward?” Hermione offered.

“It was a bloody disaster is what it was!” Ron exclaimed.

“Ron!” Hermione scolded.

“Well he’s right, Hermione. Those people really are intolerable. I’ve still got half and mind to go back in there and curse the lot of them,” Ginny said heatedly, chucking her thumb over her shoulder in the direction of the door.

“It’s all over with the Dursleys now, at least Harry can put them behind him,” Hermione said.

“I’m still here y’know,” Harry said feeling like he was being talked about as if he weren’t present. He chuckled a little at the irony that it was what the Dursleys used to do to him when he was younger except in the Dursleys case they would insult him and now his friends were defending him.

“Sorry, Harry,” Hermione said.

“Harry!” a woman’s voice shouted out from across the street. It was Mrs. Figg. She was wearing a dress that was more like a m’uu-m’uu and on her feet were her usual carpet slippers. In her hand she carried a plate loosely covered in aluminium foil. “It is you! I saw the car pull up earlier and I thought it was you I saw get out of the car. Anyways, it’s good to see you, Harry. I thought you and your friends would like some cake.” She lifted the foil off of the plate to reveal the proffered cake she had cut into portions.

“Thank you,” Harry politely took a piece and, remembering that her cakes were a texture that was reminiscent of a loofa sponge and tasted not much better than one, took a cautious nibble. Harry knew this about the cake but Ron did not. Ron had taken a rudely large bite, his cheeks bulging.

“Good, eh? Would you like some more?” she offered to Ron.

“Mo fanku, imfyfanks,” He said around the mouthful of dry spongy cake trying not to choke. Ginny and Hermione had both taken a piece of cake but seeing Ron’s reaction chose to take Harry’s cue and only take a small nibble to be polite.

“Well, don’t be a stranger, Harry. I’ve got to get back to feed the cats. Just had a new little last week.”

“I’ll try and keep in touch, Mrs. Figg and if ever you need something feel free to owl me.”

“Alright then, take care,” she said and she began shuffling her way back across the street. When she finally was inside her house Ron loudly spit out the cake that had been sitting in his mouth. It had soaked up his spit and hit the ground like a rock. Harry kicked some dirt to cover it up where it lay, which happened to be near Aunt Petunia’s hydrangeas. Harry, Ginny and Hermione all threw their cake into the waste bin and then all four of them began walking down Privet Drive.

“That was horrible,” Ron said still pulling a sour face.

“It wasn’t all that bad, Ron.”

“You didn’t have to hold it in your mouth for as long as I did, Hermione. It just got worse the longer it sat on my tongue.”

“Well maybe if you ate normal sized bites instead of stuffing your mouth with as much food that’ll fit into it you wouldn’t have had that problem,” Hermione shot back which Ron had no comeback for so he didn’t say anything. Harry and Ginny found the whole thing rather amusing.

“So where to now?” Ron asked successfully changing the subject.

“Dunno, where do you want to go?”

“Want to go back to the Burrow and play some Quidditch?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Harry said shrugging his shoulders. Could it really be that he really did have the opportunity to do something so normal? He wished he still had his Firebolt.

“Mind if I join you?” Ginny asked. “It’s been a while since I had the chance to fly.”

“Sure,” Harry said glad for the chance to spend more time with her. “There’s an alley up here where we can Apparate from.” they followed Harry into the same alley that, almost three years ago, Dementors had attacked Harry and Dudley in. Without having to say anything Ginny gained a grip on Harry’s arm. Harry took it as a good sign that the rest of the day would go better than it began.

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