Harry's Portkey transported him and Severus to the site where once the Bungalow stood. Dumbledore had gone ahead, not wanting his sons to be alone, but he was with Rhys at the edge of the forest, giving the younger men time to examine the remains of the house by themselves.
"They told me you adopted them," Rhys said, gathering the mushrooms he needed for potions ingredients.
His former student nodded. "I became Severus's guardian when he was 19. I should have adopted Harry the moment his parents were killed."
"But you didn't."
Dumbledore blushed and hung his head. "No, sir," he softly admitted, "I left him with his abusive relatives, despite repeated warnings."
Rhys stood up and wiped the dirt off his hands. "That doesn't sound like the Albus I knew," his voice was soft and calming, "what happened, child?"
The blush deepened. "I'm a hundred and fifty-seven now. No one has called me 'child' for over a century."
Rhys chuckled. "Albus, I'll be two hundred and twenty-nine soon. I still remember you at your Sorting, a nervous little boy who was terrified of not being good enough to come to Hogwarts. Even when we all saw the great potential you had."
Dumbledore's eyes widened. "You did? But you…"
"I always was hard on you?" Rhys smiled, "I'd have thought that after all this time you'd have understood. That it's the most promising students we are the hardest on, because we want them to reach their full potential. That's why I pushed you further and harder than any of my other students."
Albus winced. "I was terrified of you the first years of school. I didn't even appreciate what you were doing until my OWL year."
Rhys pulled him to a fallen log, and they sat down, far enough not to be overheard, but still able to see Harry and Severus.
Albus squirmed uncomfortably. "You'll be very ashamed of me once you know," he sighed.
A hand on his shoulder quietly encouraged him to go on. "It started…started when Tom resurfaced after his quest for power, and gained followers…"
Severus stared at the debris. Hardly anything was recognizable. He couldn't believe that this was the house they had lived in only a few short weeks ago.
Harry shivered. "I hate Fudge," he said vehemently, "even if he's dead…I still hate him."
Severus patted his shoulder. "Tell me about last summer," he smiled at Harry, "I remember cleaning. Rugs…"
Harry grinned. "You liked cleaning the rugs. You levitated two at the time and rammed them into each other."
He pointed to what once had been a room.
"We sat there, at night, when you came down after a nightmare, drinking warm milk with honey."
With an evil gleam, Harry added: "You were so cute, half asleep and in your jammies."
The glare he received was a bit too much Potions Master for comfort, but the pout afterwards was definitely Sevvy.
"I am not, nor have I ever been, CUTE!"
"Yes you were."
"Yes you were."
"Was not…and YOU were constantly FUSSING over me!" Severus accused.
It was Harry's turn to gasp in outrage.
Harry stared at him. "You GIT! You…you…"
"I think, Harry," his brother said softly, "that the memories of this place count for more than the house. And we get to keep the memory."
Harry turned and stared. "I still want to rebuild it," he said sadly, "it belonged to my parents, and you became my brother here. True, the stone and all doesn't matter that much, but this place does. Will you rebuild it with me?"
Smiling brightly at him, Severus nodded.
"…and that's when I realized it was my fault Severus ran away, as Harry did," Dumbledore finished his confession to his old mentor.
Rhys nodded. "And then?"
Albus looked up in confusion. "What do you mean?"
Pointing at the two near the house, Rhys clarified, "They love you, Albus. When I met them, they called you their father. They let you adopt them. So somewhere between them running away, and now, something must have happened."
"I've tried hard, very hard, to make everything up to them. But like Harry once said, I can't undo what I did wrong."
Silence reigned for a little while. Then Rhys sighed.
"Albus, do you remember, that ten years or so before you defeated Grindelwald, I resigned from Hogwarts?"
"Of course. We all missed you."
"It was the biggest mistake of my life," Rhys said, not bitter, not depressed, just stating a fact. "I saw the rise of Grindelwald. I knew you'd be the one to defeat him. I'd lived through a number of conflicts already, and I was tired. So I fled, and left you to deal with him. With him, and Tom Riddle. I should never have done that. But I did, and I thought I could never undo it. I stayed in hiding. Until a few weeks ago, when I found two desperate boys practically on my doorstep, and realized I had hidden for too long. Had I been braver, I would have been with you to help you through your wars. There is nothing I can offer you, except the promise I will be here to help you from now on."
Albus's eyes widened. "You will? Seriously? I understand you wanted rest after the wars you lived through, it means so much to me that you are willing to give up your quiet life just for me."
Rhys smiled brightly. "Thank you, Albus. And that is your own answer as well. Harry and Severus forgave you for what you did wrong. You don't have to make it up. They only ask that you are there for them from now on."
Dumbledore returned the smile gratefully, and turned his head, his eyes softening as his gaze fell on his sons.
Harry and Severus had insisted on building the new Bungalow themselves. Though their friends came by often to help, as well as the occasional Hogwarts professor, the project was theirs, and theirs alone.
Severus even insisted on creating Circe a special place in the garden, with cool hiding places, soft grass and nice sun spots. With Harry as a go-between, he asked the little snake many times what exactly she wanted until it was perfected. He even got Rhys to cast a 'notice-me-not' charm on her, with the specific intent of keeping her out of the sight of predator birds.
Late one afternoon, they were sitting in the grass, drinking a cool butterbeer and looking at the house. They had worked hard all that day, and now the walls were put up, the roof was perfected, and each room had been enchanted to appear bigger on the inside than on the outside.
"I read that once in a book," Harry had explained, "and I liked the idea. If it works on tents, why not on houses?"
"Tomorrow we can start on the interior," Harry said, kicking off his shoes to feel the soft grass on his feet.
"And then we'll be full circle," Severus commented softly, "back where it began. Fixing up the Bungalow together."
"Well, technically, to go all the way back to where it began, you'd have to be in York, stealing fruit," Harry pointed out.
Severus blushed. "This time, YOU can steal the fruit," he muttered.
"Hey, Sev, look at this! I finally figured it out."
Severus cast a glance at his brother, and began to roar with laughter.
Harry's eyes were twinkling.
"I studied Rhys and father, and I practiced in front of the mirror. Give it a try too."
Severus concentrated, and after a while, a small twinkle appeared in the onyx eyes.
"There!" Harry grinned widely, "it's a family trait now."
They had not allowed Dumbledore and Rhys to see the finished house, but on the day it was completely finished, they invited them over for a tour.
Proudly showing off the kitchen, living room, dining room, den, library, and six bedrooms, they all crashed in the den.
Dumbledore noticed a familiar picture. Harry had asked, a while ago, for a copy of the amusement park picture and a few of Sevvy's drawings. They now decorated the walls of the den, along with some of Severus's newer paintings. His love for it, though long repressed in his spying years, never died out.
"Are you going to name the house?" Rhys asked, "or will it just stay The Bungalow?"
Severus shook his head.
"Did you read Tolkien?" he asked Rhys.
The old man chuckled. "Certainly, my boy."
"Well, when we thought of a name for this house, one that kinda showed what it means to us, we decided on the title of his book."
Harry nodded. "We made a sign, even," he said.
Severus Summoned a piece of wood over.
"Here it is. We're naming it 'There, and back again.'"
A/N: for now, at least. Yes, this was the end. After four months of writing. Thanks, all, for bearing with me throughout the entire trilogy.