Chapter Forty

Dearest Yasmine Lily Potter,

We found this in a little old bookshop today and thought of you. It smells faintly of coffee round the edges, as if someone couldn't bear to put it down even for breakfast. Those are the best kinds of stories, you know. The kind that takes hold of your heart and refuses to let go—even for breakfast.

Love forever from your parents,

Mama and Dad

"She's been reading that book forever," said Adrian, looking up into the tree-house where Yasmine was perched reading. "It must be exciting."

"She's not reading the book," said Katy softly, hugging the tree trunk and smiling. Adrian looked puzzled for a moment. Then, as he heard sobs coming faintly from above, he understood.

Among the rustle of the leaves, Yasmine curled up in a corner of the tree house and held the precious letter to her heart, her face stained with tears and brightened with a brilliant smile.

Dear Dustin Albus Potter,

This is a shell we found walking along the beach today. It didn't seem like much at first. But then we saw the way it reflected the sunlight, and… well. You see the way it shines.

We love you, Dusty. We don't know how else to say it, but with you—we don't have to.

All our love,

Mama and Dad

"What's that in the window?" Yasmine said, missing the pass from Jack and letting the football roll past her under the porch. Jack glanced up and saw a glint of rainbow dazzling in the window.

"That's Dusty's shell," he said, "he asked Ron to hang it where he could always see it."

Yasmine waved. "Is that him?"

"Yeah," Jack said, working his way under the porch. His voice was a bit muffled, but Yasmine could still catch what he said. "I don't know why, but he likes to sit there and watch it when it's sunny. You know. It's just the way he is. I don't understand it."

Yasmine could see Dusty's eyes fixed firmly on the glimmering purple shell, oblivious to her wave.

"I think I do," was all she said, before they returned to their game.

Dear Katy Minerva Potter,

We found these magical building blocks today in a toy shop down the street from us. You can mold them into any shape you like, and within a few minutes they'll be as hard as wood. If you tap them once, they'll stick to the other blocks touching them. If you tap them twice, they'll return to their original shape.

You are very good at building things, after all. And we think you're very good at building up people, too. Don't ever underestimate the value of your gentleness and encouragement, Katy-girl. Don't underestimate yourself.

Lots of love,

Mama and Dad

"I want Mama and Papa to come back, Katy," complained Jackie, as she watched Katy carefully build a tower on the floor. "I like Grandfather and Grandmother, but I want Mama and Papa back."

"We'll have to wait a little longer, Jack-Jack," said Katy, taking a triangle block and molding it into a cone, "They are having a good time, though. Did you see the pictures they sent us?"

"Uh-huh," said Jackie, sighing, "we have a good time here, too."

"Exactly," said Katy, standing. Her creation was a few inches taller than she was, and she felt herself swell with pride at the sight of it.

"It's a castle!" Jackie exclaimed. "What's it for, Katy?"

Katy smiled at her.

"It's for you," she said, "it's your very own castle."

Jackie gasped and squealed in delight, throwing her arms around Katy and babbling in excitement. "Really, Katy? It's really mine?"

"To keep," said Katy, laughing and grinning, "For as long as you want."

Jackie stopped then, eyeing Katy in sudden puzzlement.

"But weren't the blocks your present?" Jackie asked, "Aren't they for you? What will you have?"

Katy smiled again, sticking her hand in her jeans pocket and thumbing the corner of the well-worn letter.

"A lot more than you think," was all she said. "Now let's play!"

Dear Jack Howard Potter,

We hope you like this watch! It's a bit like the ones the Weasleys have in their home. That way, you'll always know where we are.

We'll always be with you, Jack. You'll always be our son—always.

Take care of your brothers and sisters, Jack, as we always know you will.

We love you,

Mama and Dad

"What time is it, Jack?" Katy asked, sprawling out on the couch with a book. Jack looked up, starting a little.

"I don't know," he said after a moment. "Go look."

"But you have a watch now," said Katy, slightly bewildered, "you've been staring at it the whole time."

"I know," said Jack, "but it doesn't tell me that."

He looked down at his watch. Harry and Hermione's hands were ticking ever closer to 'Home' every day, and for some reason Jack couldn't stop staring at it.

"I'll tell you this, though, Katy-girl," said Jack, rolling over, "Mum and Dad are coming home."

He grinned at her. "Until then, I'll take care of you. Don't worry about that."

Dear Adrian Sirius Potter,

How do you like the flute? We bought it in hopes that you could entertain your grandparents after dinner tonight. We've heard some beautiful music in the past few days, and it's amazing how much it can cheer everyone up.

That's something we love about you, Adrian. You are always able to cheer us up when we need it. Don't lose that joy. It would be sorely missed. We are so very lucky to have found you that day, and we feel even luckier to be your parents.

Love,

Mama and Dad

"Grandmother? Are you all right?"

"Oh," Mrs. Granger sniffled hastily and wiped her eyes, "of course I'm all right, dear. Don't worry about me."

Adrian climbed onto the couch beside her, his legs dangling over the edge.

"You were crying, weren't you?"

Mrs. Granger wiped her eyes again and didn't reply, feeling slightly ashamed of herself.

"Did you see what Mama and Dad sent me?"

He held up the little wooden flute. Mrs. Granger tried to smile and nodded, trying to suppress the sobs that bubbled up in her when he mentioned Hermione.

"I figured out how to play the lullaby," he said, scooting closer to her. "Do you want to hear? It always cheers us up. I mean, Jackie and me."

He leaned on her shoulder and placed the mouthpiece in his mouth.

Moments later, a sweet, hollow song filled the living room. Mrs. Granger smiled finally through her tears.

"Hermione sings this to you?" she asked, as soon as Adrian had finished. Adrian nodded and smiled.

"Mostly Jackie, actually, but she sang it to me when I was sick. Or, I mean, she hummed it. She doesn't usually sing the words."

"She learned it from me, you know," said Mrs. Granger, wiping her eyes with a damp tissue, "we used to sing her to sleep every night with that song."

Adrian studied her with an unusually understanding look.

"Grandmother?"

"Yes, dear."

"You did a good job," he said, taking her hand, "with Mama, I mean. She's the best person in the whole world—except for Dad, of course. That makes you a great mother, too, doesn't it?"

"Well, not exactly," Mrs. Granger choked out, smiling still, "she wasn't with me very long."

He put his flute on her knee and smiled.

"Thank you for giving her to us, Grandmother," he said, sincerely, "she saved my life, you know. I almost died. And I'm very grateful, because—because without her I wouldn't ever have had a mother—or a grandmother, either."

She sobbed a little and put her arms around him.

"You're- you're welcome, Adrian. And thank you."

"I meant to cheer you up," he said, grinning lopsidedly and reminding Helen forcibly of Harry. "I guess I didn't do a very good job, did I?"

"No, no, that's not true," said Mrs. Granger, "you did a wonderful job. And it sounded beautiful."

Adrian smiled.

"Can you sing it, too?"

"Oh, you wouldn't even recognize the tune when I sing it."

"I think I would," said Adrian, "besides, it's only important because it's my family singing it, not because it sounds good."

He picked up his flute and jumped to his feet.

"Come on, Grandmother! Let's show Grandfather."

Mrs. Granger smiled after him, wiping her eyes one more time.

"We truly are family after all," she said to herself, "strange as it seems."

She glanced out the window.

"Thank you, Hermione," she said softly, before she turned away and followed her grandson out the door.

Dear Benjamin James Potter,

Do you know what this is? It's a two way mirror. Harry's godfather gave one to him once, and even the broken pieces of it proved very useful.

This allows you to call us whenever you need us. We have a matching mirror with us, and if you call our names, we'll be able to hear you.

We'll always come to you. If you are ever hurt or afraid or even frustrated, we'll be there.

Remember, there is nothing you have to do to make us love you, and there is nothing you can do to make us stop.

With all our love,

Mama and Dad

Ben and Adrian sat on the porch watching the sun go down. Adrian was playing soft, idle little melodies on his flute, but Ben hardly noticed them. He was staring at his mirror, watching the golden sun rays reflecting off the mirror's silver surface.

"Are you okay, Ben?"

Ben started, finally noticing that Adrian was eyeing him in concern.

"Yeah," he said, "I'm all right."

"I miss them, too," said Adrian, lowering his flute a little. "But they're nearly home. Jack says so."

Ben looked down at his mirror.

"I could call them," he said, more to himself than to Adrian, "and I could talk to them."

"What do you need to talk to them about?" Adrian said curiously, playing a scale with a quick movement of his fingers.

"I don't know," said Ben, slowly, "Everything."

"What does that mean?" Adrian asked, staring at him. "Everything?"

"I just… everything," said Ben, "or nothing in particular. Something."

There was a silence, and Ben sighed.

He missed them, he thought, he missed them more than he ever thought he could miss anyone. He thought it was strange, since he spent so much time with them both, since he lived with them—since they were his parents. But their absence was palpable in the house, palpable like an ache and a smile all at once.

"Home's not the same without them," he said, putting the mirror aside.

"Home is where the heart is," said Adrian philosophically, and Ben laughed.

"It's true, I suppose," he said, "that's why people use that phrase so much. But, for us- home is where we're all together."

Adrian nodded.

"You're right."

They watched the sun go down, watching their little world slide into warm, moonlit darkness.

"One more day," said Adrian softly. Ben grinned.

"One more day until we're home."

Dear Jacqueline Helen Potter,

How has your day been? We sent you a little bed for Oats to sleep in. We heard you thought Oats was big enough to sleep by himself, so we thought we'd let him try it. Of course, if he gets lonely, he shouldn't feel silly for going back to your bed for a few nights.

We love you very much, Jack-Jack. We're so proud of you, and so glad to watch you grow up.

We can't wait to see you tomorrow! Don't wait up for us, though, dearest. Even grown-up girls need to sleep.

Love and kisses,

Mama and Papa

"I don't think I want Oats to sleep there tonight, Grandfather," said Jackie in a trembling voice from the bed. Mr. Granger paused, and sat on the edge of Jackie's bed.

"Why not, Jackie?"

"Because he's lonely," said Jackie, fisting her blanket and gazing at the tiny doll bed beside her own, "and he wants Mama and Papa to come kiss us goodnight."

Mr. Granger bent and kissed Jackie's forehead.

"Well, he doesn't have to stay there if he doesn't want," he said gently, leaning down and pulling the bear out of the bed. "But does Oats know that Harry and Hermione are coming home tonight?"

"Yes, but I want them now." Great tears flowed from Jackie's eyes , and Mr. Granger put an arm about her small shoulders.

"I know," he said, "but just think of the fun we've had while they've been away."

"Like the swings at the park?"

"Yes," said Mr. Granger, "and remember yesterday?"

"When you tickled me and laughed so hard that you cried?" said Jackie, brightening a little, "Papa cried, too, when he married Mama."

"That's right. And just think. You and Mama and Papa and your brothers and sisters will all live at the same place now."

"And I'll see Papa every day," said Jackie happily, snuggling Oats and scooting closer to Mr. Granger on the bed. "Will I see you every day, too?"

"No," said Mr. Granger, surprised at how much the answer pained him, "not every day. But quite a bit."

"I'll miss you, too, Grandfather," said Jackie, closing her hands around two of his fingers, "you aren't like Papa, but I love you like him, or almost like him."

"I love you, too, Jackie," said Mr. Granger, smiling at her and feeling himself grow mysteriously misty-eyed. "Good night."

He kissed her on the forehead again.

"Good night, Grandfather. Love you lots," said Jackie sleepily. He turned off the lights, stood, and crept out of the room.

He smiled, and whispered softly, "I love you lots more."

There was no reply, but he felt no shame in wiping a few tears away as he shut the door.

"I'll miss them, too," came Helen's voice from behind him. He turned and wrapped his arms around his wife.

"Strangest family I've ever seen," he murmured, kissing her hair. Helen laughed.

"Oh, without a doubt," she conceded, "What would our neighbors say?"

"Not that it matters. Or not anymore."

"No," Helen said softly, resting her chin on his shoulder, "not anymore."

"Hermione is so young, Helen," Howard said, wistfully, "yet so… so mature."

"I suppose she gets that from you," said Helen, making him chuckle. "She's so much happier now, Howard, have you noticed? She used to be so serious."

"So did you," he returned, smiling to soften the reply. She blinked and frowned.

"And what does that mean, Howard?"

"It means that you've changed, Helen," he said thoughtfully, "both of us have."

"For the better, I hope," said Helen dryly. Howard kissed her

"Oh, undeniably for the better, dear," he said, "we've both learned how to love even more than before."

She drew back, tilting her head and examining his face in wonder.

"You know, sometimes it astonishes me."

"What astonishes you?" he said, blinking.

"How alike you and Hermione are," she said.

"Thank you for the compliment, my dear," he said, laughing quietly, "because the more time I spend with our girl, the more I want to be like her."

Helen brushed her hand against his cheek.

"Well, if it's any comfort,' she said, "I like you the way you are, Howard Granger. And I'm very lucky to have you."

He smiled and kissed her.

"I like you for who you are, Helen—but I love you even more for the person I've seen you become."


It was near midnight when they arrived at the house, holding hands and carrying bags. Harry put down the suitcase, put his arm about her, and kissed her forehead.

"You smell like the sea," he commented, smiling. She laughed and pushed at his chest with her palm.

"So do you, Mr. Potter. Now are you going to unlock the door?"

He paused, looking at the old house with an odd look on his face.

"Even with all of our sight-seeing," he said, "this is my favorite sight so far."

Hermione sighed and smiled, leaning against him and gazing at the front door fondly.

"It's mine, too," she whispered. She turned toward him and kissed him.

"Are you ready?" she asked softly. He looked at her, his eyes bright and tender as the moon above them.

"You know the answer," he said softly.

With that, they opened the door and stepped inside, taking their bags and closing the door behind them.

Night enfolded the old house comfortably in gentle starlight, summer breezes, and cricket lullabies. And there, at the end of the lane, the old house slept—quiet, comfortable, alive and breathing—until morning.

A/N: And so the curtain closes. Thank you so much for your faithful reviews and encouragement throughout this journey and experiment. It has been a beautiful, fulfilling experience for me, and I hope you can say the same.

One question some of you may ask is: will I ever return to the Potters' old house again?

Fortunately, the answer is yes. I am working steadily on a follow-up, but I am attempting to get ahead for the school year, so that updates can be fairly regular. For now, I can only thank you again for your reviews and patience.