Harry Potter stood by the mailbox of Number Four Privet Drive gazing blankly at the house that it belonged to. Across the street a neighbor watered his grass, wiping his brow against the unforgiving mid-July heat, and farther down the block Harry could hear the sound of someone mowing their lawn. The birds around him chirped merrily, quite oblivious to the inner conflict Harry was struggling with.
It had been slightly more than two months since the Battle of Hogwarts was won and Voldemort had been vanquished forever. Harry had seen several weeks of peace and weightlessness before a tiny nagging feeling had crept into his mind. He had impatiently ignored the feeling at first, spending time at the Burrow playing Quidditch with Ron, discussing their futures with Hermione, and sneaking off with Ginny whenever time permitted. However it continued to grow from the back of his mind until Harry had reluctantly risen before dawn and traveled to the Ministry one gloomy morning about week ago. He remembered that day quite clearly;
Harry walked quickly past the welcome desk after being waved past by the wizard working at it. Keeping his head down for the most part he occasionally waved or nodded as wizards and witches gave cries of excitement and recognition as he passed. As Harry sped towards the lifts he noticed that the sickening statue that had declared "Magic is Might" had already been removed from the middle of the atrium, and Harry stopped with a jolt as he saw the statue that had replaced it.
Brandishing a wand above his head and clutching the sword of Gryffindor in his other hand stood a statue of Harry himself, his face frozen in a look of determination, scar visible on his forehead. On his right stood a resolute looking Hermione, clutching a spell-book in addition to her wand. On his left stood Ron, gritting his face in concentration, wand at the ready and deluminator in hand. Each of their wands was glowing brightly and unwavering at the tip.
The Trio was surrounded by a golden fountain and as Harry moved even closer he could read the plaque at the base which read "'There is hope in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light' –Albus Dumbledore". Harry felt a jolt of emotion as he read this and took a few moments to compose himself before continuing towards the lifts. Inside, he kept his head down until reaching The Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes. From there Harry hurried past busily working employees until he reached a door with a plaque that read "Hestia Jones; Supervisor" and ducked inside.
Hestia looked up surprised as he entered, but smiled as she saw who he was. "Ah Mr. Potter, I was wondering when to expect a visit from you. Personally I would have never given them a second thought, I mean what dreadful muggles, really! But Mad Eye always said you were too noble for your own good." She gazed at him expectantly. Startled by her immediate understanding of his reason for being there and her mention of Mad Eye Harry found himself temporarily at a loss for words. "Er…yeah.."
"Do sit down," said Hestia briskly shuffling through some papers on her desk. "Ah, here we are…"
Harry sat in the chair across from her as she extracted a piece of paper from the pile and quickly scanned it. Then setting it down and folding her hands on the desk she turned her full attention to Harry. "Now Mr. Potter, as you and I both know you are here reluctantly to find out what became of your Aunt, Uncle, and Cousin during the months that they were in hiding while you ran around saving the entire wizarding world. Why you would even give a fleeting thought to people like that lot I may never know" she said shaking her head. "However, I can inform you that they were very safe during the duration of this time, and as soon as we got notice that the battle had been won they were returned to their original residence in Little Whinging. And I must say I was not at all sorry to see the back of them for good."
Harry felt a small piece of his mind that he had not realized was tensed relax as she spoke. Why he had even cared about the well-being of those who had made his childhood miserable he could not explain. Maybe Mad-Eye had been right by saying that he was too noble for his own good, because Harry highly doubted that the Dursleys had even given him a second thought once they drove away from Privet Drive, and were most likely more concerned with whether the hedges had grown too much while they were away.
Hestia watched Harry silently as he processed this and now gave a slow nod of understanding as he looked up. She opened her mouth and hesitated, looking down at the paper before speaking again. "As you know Dedalus Diggle was also assigned with me to watch over your…relatives" Harry nodded and she continued. "As I'm sure you have noticed he has always been a rather avid fan of yours Mr. Potter, and he doesn't exactly hide this enthusiasm."
Harry allowed a small smile, remembering Dedalus's enthusiasm from the few times they had met before Hestia continued. "During the time that we stayed with your relatives, Dedalus and I discovered just how little they knew about our world and your involvement in it." With a scowl on her face now Hestia continued darkly, "While I was perfectly content to ignore them and allow them to remain ignorant and wrapped up in their own miserable lives, Dedalus took it upon himself to educate them and try to make them see you in the way that he does."
Harry chortled in spite of himself at the thought of Uncle Vernon worshiping him in the way Dedalus did. Hestia smiled wryly, knowing what he was thinking, but a small frown creased on her forehead as she continued. "While your Aunt and Uncle never commented about Dedalus's stories and explanations, they always seemed to listen to what he had to say. And occasionally your Aunt especially would seem to react to what she heard in some subtle way or another, by turning pale or flinching. But since neither of them ever commented…" she trailed off looking out the window. With a sigh she looked back at Harry. "Well, who knows."
Harry was rather surprised by this information, as he had been sure that Uncle Vernon would try to drown out anything having to do with Harry, as would Aunt Petunia. But as he thought about this a tiny memory wormed its way back into his head as he remembered the day they had parted, and how Aunt Petunia's hesitation and how she had seemed to want to say something to him. Thinking of this brought back another memory that he had previously pushed aside of his cousin shaking his hand, telling him he didn't think he was a waste of space.
"What about Dudley?" Harry asked Hestia, surprised when her face softened slightly for the first time since she had begun speaking. "Your cousin was…different than your Aunt and Uncle" she replied hesitantly. "While he had a disgusting habit of allowing them to treat him like a baby, he always intently listened to what Dedalus had to say, or" she frowned "at least I think he was intently listening. He looked rather like an ogre with his mouth slightly open like it was," Harry smirked at this comment "and he even occasionally asked a couple of questions."
This brought back the same feeling of confusion that Harry had felt on the day Dudley had shaken his hand, and once again he wondered whether the dementor attack so many months ago had blown a new personality into Dudley. Hestia seemed to be thinking along the same lines, for she asked Harry curiously about how he had saved Dudley's life a few summers ago. After answering her question he politely dismissed himself, rising to leave the office and bidding her thanks and farewell. However as he stood and walked to the door she seemed to be trying to decide whether to say something or not, and as he reached for the handle she said "One moment please Mr. Potter" and he turned to face her, confused.
"I do not believe that the people who treated you so horribly for so many years deserve so much as a letter from someone as noble and heroic as you" she said fiercely. "However…" she hesitated "Their reluctant allowance of you to stay in their house for seventeen years kept you protected, no matter how unprotected and miserable you felt. And it seems to me as though you are still in need of some kind of closure, for one reason or another." She sighed and met Harry's startled gaze steadily "I believe that only if you visit them one final time will that feeling you have go away for good, so that you can continue the rest of your life in peace. And Merlin knows you deserve to finally have some peace. Good day to you Mr. Potter." And with that she turned back to the papers on her desk and began briskly sorting through them again.
After leaving Hestia's office and the Ministry, Harry returned to The Burrow feeling even more confused than he had been when he left that morning, and slightly angry as well. He knew that Hestia was right, and he could not understand why he felt anything for the relatives that he had never been able to call family. However after a week of avoiding it Harry finally accepted the inevitable, and on a hot and sunny afternoon he found himself once again on the steps of Number Four Privet Drive, gazing down at the stoop that he had been left on as an infant. With a sigh he carelessly ran his hand through his hair staring at the door.