The Sugar Quill
Author: Wahlee (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: I Found Love  Chapter: Chapter One: Return to Privet Drive
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I Found Love--Chapter One
I Found Love

Chapter One:

Return to Privet Drive

(Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns Harry Potter and everything related to him. I don't own this world, I just play in it.)

A/N: This is a sequel to my other fic, Look to Your Dreams. While it is not strictly necessary to have read it beforehand, I recommend it.

Harry Potter stood frozen on the sidewalk in front of Number 4, Privet Drive. Although it was early July, he found himself shivering. A sudden touch on his hand made him jump.

"Harry, are you all right?" Harry turned to look at the redheaded girl who stood holding his hand. Concern furrowed her eyebrows. "I don't think I've ever seen you look so pale—even when you were unconscious in the hospital wing. Are you sure you want to do this?"

"I. . .I. . ." Harry shook his head. "No. I don't want to. But I need to. If I don't go and collect my things, the Dursleys'll probably burn everything. I wish I could have fit everything in my Hogwarts trunk when I left, but I couldn't use magic to expand it, and it didn't fit otherwise. I don't have much—but knowing there isn't anything left here means I won't have to ever even think about the Durselys again. I'll really be able to get on with my new life." Harry paused. "It'll be good for them, too. Once I get everything, they can fumigate the room and forget I ever existed."

Ginny made an exasperated noise, but let the self-deprecation slide. "And are they expecting you?"

"Yes. I sent them a letter—by Muggle post, of course—before I left Hogwarts, telling them that I wasn't going to be able to come home on the school train like usual, so they needn't bother collecting me from King's Cross. I also said that since I'm out of school, I'll be living with my godfather, and that I'd be here at 2:00 on July 8th to pick up the rest of my things." He glanced at his watch. "It's 1:59. I want to be right on time."

"Let's do it, then," Ginny said, pulling Harry with her up the walkway to the front door. "The sooner we do this, the sooner we can leave."

"Wait, Ginny." Harry stopped and looked into Ginny's eyes for a moment. "Thanks for coming with me. I don't think I could've faced them by myself."

"Don't be silly. Of course I would come with you." Ginny gave Harry a quick kiss on the cheek, then pulled him to the door and knocked.

In the moments between the knock and when Uncle Vernon pulled open the door, Harry steeled himself. He hated these people. If he never saw them again it would be just fine with him. But he'd just faced and conquered Voldemort. This should be nothing. Right? Except that's just the problem, isn't it? Harry thought. Now you know what you can really do when you're provoked. 

Vernon Dursley, still red-faced and blustery, filled the doorway entirely. Although Harry now stood about an inch taller than his uncle, something about the way Uncle Vernon was looking at him made him feel like a scrawny eleven-year-old again. All Harry's resolve drained out of him under the power of that withering glare—utter loathing and revulsion, but mixed with a little bit of curiosity.

"Well?" Uncle Vernon said shortly, as if Harry were a door-to-door salesman. Harry opened his mouth, but no words came out. Ginny gave him a little nudge and squeezed his hand encouragingly.

"I. . .I. . .hello, Uncle Vernon. I just came to collect my things. Could—could I come in?" That was good, Harry thought. Be nice and polite, and things won't get out of hand.

Uncle Vernon's eyes became slits as he scrutinized Harry. His gaze raked over Harry's hair, which was still untidy—his scar, still visible through his fringe—his clothes, newly purchased at a Muggle shop—and finally his hand, which was still holding Ginny's tightly. Harry stiffened as his uncle's gaze shifted to Ginny. She, however, was not intimidated. She stuck out her hand, grinned mischievously, and said "Nice to meet you, Mr. Dursley. I'm Ginny Weasley, Harry's girlfriend. Harry's told me so much about you."

At the name Weasley, Uncle Vernon gave a visible start. Probably still remembering the Floo powder and Ton-Tongue Toffees, Harry thought wryly. But it was the word girlfriend that shifted his attention back to his nephew. Harry couldn't help but grin at the shocked look on Uncle Vernon's face. "Girlfriend?" Uncle Vernon sputtered, ignoring Ginny's outstretched hand.

Before Harry could answer, Ginny spoke. "He's not much to look at, I know," Ginny turned to Harry and winked, "but he did just save the world, so I guess he's got potential." Harry forgot to blush at the compliment—Uncle Vernon's reaction was too amusing. Harry couldn't tell if he was more shocked at Harry's having a girlfriend or the news that he'd just saved the world.

"So," Ginny continued, ignoring the fact that Uncle Vernon's jaw had dropped to his feet, "can we come in, then?"

Uncle Vernon stepped aside wordlessly, his mouth still hanging open. Ginny marched across the threshold, pulling Harry along with her. Harry shrugged his shoulders as he was dragged past Uncle Vernon into the living room.

Aunt Petunia was there, as was Dudley. From the expressions on their faces, they had obviously overheard the conversation at the door. Seemingly oblivious to the looks of horror mixed with curiosity they were leveling at her, Ginny advanced toward them, dragging Harry and holding out her hand once more. "You must be Harry's Aunt Petunia," she said. Aunt Petunia had recovered enough to put out her bony hand, which Ginny shook firmly. "What a lovely home you have—and so neat, too!" Before Aunt Petunia had decided whether to be flattered at the compliment or resent that it was coming from a witch, Ginny had moved on to Harry's cousin. "And you're Dudley, of course. Very pleased to meet you at last." Dudley shook her hand cautiously, as though afraid she had a Ton-Tongue Toffee concealed inside. His quadruple chin bounced as he mouthed wordlessly.

By now, Uncle Vernon had closed the door and entered the living room as well. Feeling a bit more relaxed, Harry turned to him. "I don't want to take up any more of your time than is necessary," he said apologetically. "We'll just go up to my old room and clean it out."

Having recovered a little bit by now, Vernon answered, a little testily. "I hope you don't expect me to haul anything anywhere for you. I notice you didn't bring a car." Vernon paused. Harry could almost see the gerbil running on the wheel in his head. "How did you get here, anyway?"

"Err. . .you probably don't really want to know, Uncle Vernon. Trust me." As neither Ginny nor himself could Apparate yet, and knowing how Uncle Vernon would feel about Floo Powder, Harry had added an extra cushioning charm to his Firebolt, and they had flown here from the Burrow under cover of the invisibility cloak, both of which were now hidden in a dense stand of trees in the park down the street. Harry couldn't help but smile at the remembrance of the ride—it had been extremely pleasant, having Ginny holding on to his waist as they zoomed over the countryside. Uncle Vernon's eyes narrowed. "As for getting it away, well. . .I don't think you really want to know how I'm going to do that, either."

"Try me," spat Uncle Vernon.

"Well, umm. . ." Harry pulled a small jar from his pocket. "This is a Shrinking Solution. I was just going to shrink everything up and put it in here," Harry pointed to his school bag, which hung on his shoulder, "and then expand it back to normal size once I've settled in at Sirius' place. Once he gets a place, that is." Uncle Vernon had started turning purple, so Harry hastily added, "I thought that a potion would be, umm, better, than using my wand. The magic's not quite as obvious."

Uncle Vernon, however, obviously wasn't impressed by his nephew's thoughtfulness. "How dare you. . .how dare you. . .we all know you're abnormal, that's a given with the parents you had—but to march in here, expecting to do ma— ma—"

"Magic," supplied Ginny. "It's actually pretty easy to say—only two syllables."

Vernon turned to Ginny, his mustache twitching dangerously. "I don't remember speaking to you, girl." Before she could answer, he had turned back to Harry. "Listen here, boy. There will be no"—Uncle Vernon paused, working himself up to it— "magic in this house. After you left for school in September, your aunt cleaned out your room and put all of your—things in the cupboard under the stairs. You're lucky we didn't just chuck them all out, or burn them. After all the trouble you've caused us, you deserved nothing more. But, since some of the objects were" —he paused again, but couldn't manage it a second time— "abnormal, we decided to let you dispose of them. You will go and get them and carry them outside. When you're far enough away that you can't be seen, you can do what you want—as long as you don't come near this house again. We don't want any of your kind polluting it any longer."

Only Harry's warning glances at Ginny had kept her silent. Fighting the urge to explode, Harry simply nodded to Uncle Vernon, then dragged Ginny with him out of the living room, toward the staircase. When they reached it, he had to put his arm up to keep her from going back.

"'How dare you?' How dare he! How dare he say such things to you! Doesn't he know what you've been through? Doesn't he know what you've done? You're a hero, and he treated you like. . .like. . ."

"Like he always has." Ignoring the fact that Ginny had just called him a hero, he tried to calm her down. The last thing he needed was a scene. "Listen, Ginny, it's all right. I'm used to it. Even if you tried to explain, Uncle Vernon wouldn't listen, let alone be able to understand. He won't allow himself to. Leave it alone. We'll just get my stuff and go."

Ginny looked as though she would bolt at any moment, so Harry kept hold of her hand as he opened the cupboard. He stooped to look inside, then paused as he noticed that Ginny had stopped trying to pull away. He straightened and looked at her—her face was suddenly pale, her eyes strangely bright.

"Harry—this is it? You lived in here for ten years?" Her free hand fingered the lock on the door. "It's—it's so small."

Harry didn't know what to say. He couldn't tell her he hadn't minded—because he had. He couldn't tell her it hadn't hurt him—because it did. It still hurt. There was nothing he could say that would take away the feelings she was having right now—because he was feeling them too. So he just nodded.

"I used to think about you, you know. Before we met, when I was very small. I used to think how awful it was that you didn't have anyone to love you. But I never imagined this." She shook her head, tears flowing freely now. "How horrible."

Harry shrugged, trying to shake off the urge to cry himself. "Well," he said at last, "let's get this over with. The sooner I get my stuff, the sooner I can leave." He stooped down once more and peered into the dark cupboard. Three cardboard boxes stood there, carefully separated from everything else, as if they were quarantined. Harry felt his mood lighten slightly as he noticed what was written on the boxes- "H.P.'s. WEIRD AND POSSIBLY DANGEROUS." Harry took the top box and showed it to Ginny, who grinned as well.

"An accurate description of you, at least," Ginny teased.

"I wonder how Aunt Petunia even managed to put everything in here. She probably wore some kind of protective clothing." Chuckling at the mental image of Aunt Petunia handling his old Gobstones with kitchen tongs, Harry pulled the other two boxes out. "I'll take two if you take this one," he added, handing the lightest box, which probably contained his old Quidditch robes, to Ginny. "Come on, let's go."

They walked the few steps toward the living room, where Uncle Vernon, his composure restored, waited for them. "Wait, boy. I have one more thing for you." He shoved an envelope toward him, which Harry, after setting down his boxes, took curiously. "Now that you're out of school," Uncle Vernon continued, "I assume you'll be getting a job of some kind. Though if you're anything like your father, it won't be much of one. Be that as it may, you're finally in a position to pay us back for all the trouble you've caused us. In that envelope you'll find a bill. I've been keeping track of every penny we've spent on you over the years. I expect to be repaid in full."

While Uncle Vernon spoke, Harry had opened the envelope and was now staring incredulously at the paper he held in his hand. "Ten thousand pounds? You must be joking." One look at Uncle Vernon, however, convinced Harry that this was no joke.

Setting down her box as well Ginny looked at the paper in shock. She had no idea how much ten thousand pounds was, but she was sure it was an insane amount of money.

"I know it'll probably take several years. One can't expect someone like you to make much money. Of course, not all of that sum is for actual monetary expenditures. Rather a large part of it is for pain and suffering—a charming little idea I've picked up from American television." Ginny was clenching her fists so tightly her fingernails were digging into her palms. Harry, still incredulous, stared at Uncle Vernon. In the background stood Aunt Petunia and Dudley, a satisfied smirk on each of their faces. Uncle Vernon grinned rather maliciously and continued. "Perhaps you have some friends you can borrow money from. Then again"—he looked over Ginny's faded jeans and homemade jumper—"maybe not."

Uncle Vernon had obviously forgotten that Harry was now of age and a fully trained wizard, because he continued. "A redhead, boy? How sweet. You must be more like your father than we thought. You might want to re-think that. Seems to me the last time a redhead got together with a Potter, they both ended up dead. And there's no reason to think you two will be any smarter. "

Harry colored dangerously. His fingers twitched as though itching to grab his wand, which was tucked into the waist of his jeans. "You can say anything you like about me," he said quietly. "But if you say one more word about Ginny, I'll—"

But what he planned on doing, Uncle Vernon never found out. Ginny had had enough.

"How dare you!" Ginny's voice shook the pictures on the walls. "You pathetic excuse for a human being! After all you did to Harry, you couldn't just let him go away and leave you alone? What money did you ever spend on him? I know how you treated him—making him wear your disgusting son's old clothes, making him sleep in that cell you have the nerve to call a cupboard, feeding him next to nothing"—she starting walking toward Uncle Vernon, her voice growing louder with every step—"locking him in his room, forcing him to do your housework, and who knows what else? Pain and suffering? What about Harry's pain and suffering? It seems to me that Harry should be sending you a bill, not the other way around." As Ginny advanced, Uncle Vernon retreated.

Harry watched Ginny, alarm mixing with enjoyment. Having had seven years' experience with the Weasley temper, he knew this could only end up badly for all concerned. It was amazing, however, to see how much Ginny looked like her mother, lecturing the twins for blowing something up once again. Uncle Vernon had gone pale. Ginny, however, was just warming up.

"Now let me tell you something. Do you remember hearing about Voldemort, the wizard who killed Harry's parents? It wasn't just wizards he was after—he hated Muggles like you, too. In fact, if it hadn't been for the protection the wizard community had given this house, you would have been gone long ago. My dad works for the Minstry, he's told me about some of the times they uncovered a plot to attack you here, stopping it just in time. If it hadn't been for Harry, you would still be in danger—because he just defeated Voldemort, who was the most powerful evil wizard of all time. And if you think that Harry's going to pay you back for misery and abuse, you're sadly mistaken. You're lucky he doesn't turn you and your entire family into toads. He could, you know. He's just about the greatest wizard alive."

Uncle Vernon cowered in terror. He looked wildly at Harry, who tried to look as menacing as possible, unwilling to spoil the effect. Although he didn't exactly agree with the last bit of Ginny's tirade, he couldn't argue with the results. Ginny spun on her heels, picked up her cardboard box, and glared at Uncle Vernon.

"We're going now. I wouldn't expect any gold anytime soon. Be grateful your house is still in one piece. Come on, Harry." She turned, opened the door, and stalked out. Harry retrieved his boxes, enjoying immensely the look of fear on his relatives' faces.

"Umm—good-bye, then. Thank you for my things." He turned and walked out the door as well, leaving the Dursleys to themselves. For good.

Ginny was already halfway to the park by the time he caught up with her. She was still fuming, muttering things under her breath that Harry knew Mrs. Weasley would never want to hear. He joined her in silence. As they reached the stand of trees where his invisibility cloak hid his broomstick, Harry put down his boxes, took Ginny's and added it to the stack, and took out his bottle of Shrinking Solution. Ginny walked over to a nearby bench and stewed in silence as Harry shrunk his belongings and put them in his school bag. He then walked over to Ginny, helped her to her feet, and kissed her soundly.

Ginny blushed and began to look ashamed.

"Oh, Harry, I shouldn't have lost my temper like that. But I just couldn't take it anymore."

"Ginny, you were brilliant. The looks on their faces! I'll remember that for a long time." Harry grinned and then started laughing. He laughed so hard he had to sit down on the bench. Ginny couldn't help it. She started laughing too.

A/N: Don't worry, there's more coming. I've got lots of plans for Harry and Ginny (and the rest of the HP gang). I'd like to thank Teri, Melanie, Raven Snape and Morgan Tuatha for beta-reading this for me, and for all the encouragement they've given me. I'd also like to thank my roommates for their help and support. And thank you to everyone who read and reviewed my last fic for the kind words and constructive criticism. :)

The title for this fic comes from a song by the Free Design.

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