A/N: A rather pensive post-DH longshot. I wrote this without any copy of post-DH chronology on me; it is meant to be canon-compliant but some timeline details may be off. For example, I had no idea when Ginny's birthday was, so I picked a date that suited my story's timeline. Feel free to point out any mistakes, and if they don't throw my storyline into havoc I'll try to correct them. Constructive criticism is quite welcome, as always.

May 15, 1998

The house looked horrid in the spring.

Harry hadn't thought it looked especially good in the winter, but now that the rain had brought out the late flowers and the leaves had unfurled, the house appeared downright grotesque. He hadn't noticed them beneath the snow in December, but vines had clawed their way up the sideboards over the years. Now most of the façade was buried under greenery. The only part of the house that remained starkly visible was the part that had been blown away by Voldemort's rebounded curse. The vines slumped over the broken frame and fray-ended shingles, vanishing into an indiscernible black chasm.

Why had he come back to look at it?

Harry jammed his hands bleakly into the pockets of his exhausted trousers. His finger shot through an old hole in the corner. He could have fixed it quick with a Reparo probably but he didn't bother. When he himself was threadbare and in danger of ripping apart at the seams, fixing clothes wasn't what he was most worried about. Right now, for example, he was much more focused on the fact that his heart seemed to have died of frostbite.

He'd become aware of this at Colin Creevey's funeral. Everybody from Gryffindor had gone, except for Lavender who was still at St. Mungo's. Hermione, on his left, had had her face buried in a handkerchief the whole time while Ron hugged her and sniffed conspicuously. On his right Neville had hunkered silently with wet tracks down his cheeks. But Harry had just stared at the casket up front and might as well have been dead himself for all he reacted.

Afterwards he'd been distantly appalled with himself and had hoped that it was just because Colin hadn't meant as much as the others. But the next funeral was Fred's, and again he'd just sat there like a granite boulder in a sea of wailing Weasleys. By the time Remus and Tonks' funeral approached he was anxiously trying to work himself up in advance, determined to mourn them properly like Cedric and Sirius and Professor Dumbledore and even Dobby. All he managed was to dredge up a few forced tears, while no one else could even glance at Teddy's ignorantly blissful smile without breaking down.

That had been this morning. Harry kicked a tuft of grass, wishing he could at least hate himself for being so callous. Maybe he'd hoped that coming back to this house, rubbing his face in his own personal misery, might jumpstart his emotions. Well, it hadn't worked. Voldemort was dead. Harry might as well be.

June 1, 1998

The door slammed open. "Take me to your house."

Harry focused his idle stare. Ginny stood in the doorway of Ron's room, arms crossed and her hair tucked behind her ears. The edges of her eyes were almost as red as her hair. "What?"

"Take me to your house," she repeated. "Ron and Hermione are out someplace, Mom's baking again and Dad's fiddling again and George won't open his door and Percy won't even look up from paperwork and I'm sick of lounging around this house and crying all day." Angrily she swiped at her wet eyes.

Harry pulled his arms out from behind his head and sat up on the bed slowly. "You don't want to go to my house," he said. "Maybe someplace else, but not my house."

Her brown eyes snapped. "Don't tell me what I want, Harry Potter."

"I'm serious, Ginny," he said, his voice dead. "It'll only make you feel worse."

"At least I'll feel bad about something that's not Fred," she retorted. "Besides, I want to see it. It's important to you."

"Is it?" Harry muttered.

"Of course it is, you great git. Get up, you're coming."

"Let's go in."

Harry jerked his eyes off the house and realized that he was finally feeling something: surprise. "We—we can't," he stammered.

Ginny crossed her arms again. "Why not?"

He stood with his mouth open. There must be a reason why not. It just…it wasn't right. Was it?

"It's yours, isn't it?"

"I—I guess it is," Harry spluttered, "but—"

"Well, let's go then." She tugged him past the sign, pushed open the gate, and started down the path.

The front door wasn't smashed down. Harry's surprise got a little stronger. He'd imagined Voldemort blowing it open with a tremendous spell, but apparently he hadn't done anything more spectacular than snap the bolt. The handle lay on the threshold while the door itself swung listlessly in the front hall. Dust and mold and ash lay thick on the floor, mingled with the rot of what had once been their carpet. It looked like it had been beige, maybe.

"Careful," Ginny said, pointing to sharp glittering fragments spread over part of the hallway. Harry glanced down, then noticed the shattered mirror frame on the wall on his right. He stepped past and gazed around the broad living room. The spell-blasted ruins of the armchair sprawled against the brick fireplace, but the sofa was in the right place. Pictures were still hanging on the walls; he didn't look at them. Ahead, directly opposite the front door, was the staircase to the upper floor. Across the room to the left was another door; it probably led to the kitchen. On the right was another hall and he didn't know where that went.

Ginny wandered into the middle of the living room and turned around. "It must have been a lovely house when you lived here," she said softly.

Harry's gaze fell on one of the pictures on the wall. It was the same one that Sirius had stuck to the wall of his bedroom at Grimmauld Place—the one of his dad and Sirius and Remus and Peter, laughing and looking immortally young.

They're all dead.

"I don't want to go upstairs, Ginny," he said aloud. He was still numb inside, but suddenly he wanted to be that way. The picture was making him uncomfortable. If he went upstairs something awful was going to happen.

He expected Ginny to insist, but she looked at him for a long moment and then nodded. "Okay. Let's go home."

August 31, 1998

"I want to go back to your house."

Harry looked up. He was busy packing his suitcase. After thinking about it for a couple months, he'd decided to take up Puddlemere on their offer. The Ministry and the Auror Department weren't going anywhere and Kingsley had said his offer would be as good in a couple years as it was now, so Harry had decided to take a break for a bit. Maybe a year. Maybe two. All he knew for sure was that he wasn't whole yet and it wasn't a good idea to go back to fighting dark wizards until he was. Ginny wasn't whole yet either. She was going back to Hogwarts for the last year. Term started tomorrow.

"Aren't you supposed to be packing?"

"I finished. I haven't got anything else to do. I want to go back to your house."

Harry sat back on his heels. "I've got to finish packing, but you can go, you know, I don't mind—"

"No, it's got to be with you. You can take a break for an hour."

Harry stared at his half-packed suitcase.

"I want to see the upstairs this time," she said, stepping forward. "Please, Harry, it's important. I feel like I won't know you otherwise."

"Ginny, I haven't even been back upstairs since then."

"Well," she said obstinately, "maybe you don't know you."

Maybe I don't. He twisted his hands for a moment aimlessly, then with a surge of Gryffindor recklessness he pushed himself up off his heels. "Right, I'll take you."

The stairs creaked something awful. Harry made Ginny stay behind him as he tested each one first. That got him up to the next floor without making him think about where he was going ultimately. The stairs went two zigzagged flights and came up into one hallway. The right side was set with gabled windows. On the left were bedroom doors, three of them. Two were open and the door at the very end was shut. Out of the middle door sunshine poured.

"It's the middle one," Harry muttered. It must be the sun coming through the gaping hole in the roof. They wandered past the first door, which wasn't anything but a spare bedroom, and stopped in the entrance of the nursery.

Harry stared at the sight. Toppled near the door were the weather-rotted remains of a chair and baby dresser, built into a makeshift blockade by his mum and blown away with scarcely a thought from Voldemort. The walls had been painted yellow, and there were little red lion cubs stenciled on one of them. A play-mobile still swung listlessly from the ceiling; his crib creaked beneath it. The corpses of a collection of stuffed animals decorated one corner. There was also a stack of soggy cardboard boxes against one wall.

"So this is the place," Ginny murmured. She glanced at him. "Are you all right?"

Harry shrugged. Contrary to his expectations, he still didn't feel anything more than an odd sense of déjà vu. All of the loss represented in this room was so familiar to him, so beaten into his memory, that it had lost its power on him. "It doesn't bother me."

"How can it not bother you? I mean…all the horrid things that happened to you, they happened because of this room right here."

Harry wiped a tired hand around the back of his neck. "I know that, Ginny. But I've thought about it so much that it just doesn't hit me anymore. It's too old."

She nodded and turned to look around the room again. Clearly it was not at all old to her. "Why don't we look at the other rooms then?" she suggested. "You remember this one, but maybe not the others."

Harry shifted. "Okay."

The closed door at the end of the hall led to the master bedroom. The roof here wasn't damaged and the closed door had kept things somewhat protected. The bed was still made, spread with a deep green quilt gone dingy. A pair of underwear and a discarded towel on the floor marked the side that must have been his dad's. The closet doors were shut. There were more pictures on the wall.

"Here's you," Ginny said, pointing to one of a newborn baby. She leaned closer. "You were an ugly little thing, weren't you?"

"Thanks," Harry muttered. His eyes had wandered to the people in the other pictures. He recognized the ones of his mum's parents. The dark-haired people in the other ones—were they his dad's parents? The man had the same messy black hair, but his was streaked with gray and his face was rather wrinkled. The woman had thick, short brown hair, also plied with gray. Harry thought she had the same eyes as his dad.

There was a creak on the other side of the room; Ginny had swung open the closet door to glance inside. The clothes still hung on the bar, T-shirts and sweaters and wizard robes. Shoes and more cardboard boxes were on the floor. Except for almost seventeen years of dust the place looked as if people still lived here.

They stepped back and closed the door again. "I would have thought that somebody would have come and gone through everything," Ginny mused.

"I suppose Remus and Sirius would have been the ones to do it," Harry answered, "but they obviously were a bit distracted." He stubbornly swallowed a rock-hard lump that seemed to have come into his throat. Yeah, his mum and dad were dead, and yeah, this bedroom was bringing that fact bluntly home, but it still wasn't news to him. He had done his crying for them. He'd done his crying for himself. What was left to feel?

"I guess they did." Ginny took his hand. "Let's look at the last bedroom and then we'll go."

"There's nothing there, Ginny."

"There were boxes. Let's have a look at least."

He followed her down the hall and into the bedroom. There were indeed boxes stacked on one side of the empty room, sitting on the slightly-crackling carpet. The walls were bare on that side. Then he turned around and saw the side behind the door.

A large portion of the wall had begun to be painted in soft baby blue. There were stenciled outlines of ducks; one had been filled in with hand-brushed color.

Something contracted hard in his gut.

"Harry?" Ginny's voice came from across the room. She was bending over one of the cardboard boxes. "Look at this."

Harry turned, working his tongue around his suddenly dry mouth. It was a new crib, still waiting in its long box for assembly. He turned back around and stared at the partly-painted wall. Ginny saw it too. Suddenly she was standing at his side with an arm wrapped around his shoulders.

"She was pregnant," Harry rasped. "There—there was going to be another—"

All of a sudden he could feel again. He wished he couldn't. This wasn't old news at all—this was a whole new level of loss, and he hadn't even suspected its existence until now. When would his brother or sister have been born? Maybe in April? His mum couldn't have been very far along—nobody else must have known. Remus and Sirius would have told him. But nobody had ever known because whoever his brother (or sister) would have been, the baby had died with his mum while his family was still in hiding. Another entire life lost, a whole wonderful world extinguished before it was even created—just like Teddy would never have any brothers or sisters, like Fred would never have any kids to teach pranks to, like Colin and Cedric would never even finish school—and all because one bastard of a man wanted to live forever.

"Oh, Harry," Ginny whispered.

He sank to his knees, and she pulled his head down on her shoulder and wrapped her hand in his hair as he cried for all of them. The sobs were equal parts agony and fury.

December 24, 1998

"Harry…do you think we could go to Godric's Hollow tonight?"

Harry tilted his head back glanced up from his spot on the sofa. Ron was leaning over the rail of the stairs, knocking bits of pine needles from the garland into his face. It was mid-afternoon on Christmas Eve. Mrs. Weasley and Ginny were out doing the last of the shopping. Ron and Hermione had gotten home from Hogwarts and Coach Murray had given the Puddlemere team two weeks off for the holidays, so everybody was back at the Burrow.


"You and Hermione and me," Ron said. "It's just…well, I wasn't there when you went last year." He flushed, ashamed, and Harry shifted uneasily as he remembered that disastrous first visit to Godric's Hollow a year ago. "I'd like to see your house, and your mum and dad. It's important, you know." He jammed his hands in his pockets.

Harry stared for a moment at the ceiling before switching back to Ron. Going to Godric's Hollow was the last thing he wanted to do—he was trying to get into a somewhat festive mood for Christmas, and so far not having much more success than anybody else in the house. But…well, it was important. Even if it hurt. Besides, it seemed right to visit his parents before Christmas, and this time there wouldn't be any Voldemort out to kill him. "If your mum doesn't mind, I guess."

Ron grinned.

"It really is a beautiful place at Christmas," Hermione said.

Harry blinked. Beautiful wasn't a word that occurred to him in connection with Godric's Hollow. The place didn't mean anything except bad, unless it was good things he'd lost forever. But now that he looked around, at the snow-crusted little streets and the bright green pines and the houses decked out for the holidays, he realized Hermione was right.

"Yeah," Ron said. "It feels almost like Hogsmeade. Except with less kids going nuts everywhere."

"It's a part wizarding town," Harry reminded him distantly.

They saw the memorial on the way, then went to the graveyard and found his parents again. Ron took ten whole heartfelt minutes until he managed to transfigure a couple of sticks into a presentable little bouquet. Hermione conjured another wreath of roses and Harry added a lily he'd bought before they came. Then they went to see the house. It looked just like last year. Ron wanted to go inside; Harry and Hermione followed him in, Harry feeling rather drained already. He waited downstairs; he didn't want to walk past the first bedroom. When Ron came downstairs, he was wiping his eyes.

Ron never cried. It made Harry feel a thousand times worse. His vision blurred and the half-finished second nursery flooded his mind again. They ended up all three of them on the dilapidated sofa for a long time.

"Thanks for bringing me," Ron croaked finally. "I didn't think it'd be so hard to come."

Harry squeezed Hermione's hand tightly and rubbed his eyes and looked at Ron. "Yeah, but it's easier with you two."

A faint thought rubbed through his mind as they left. Maybe Voldemort hadn't quite won after all. His house and his family were destroyed, and so many people were dead. But he was here. He was alive. He was with his friends. Maybe there really could be life after all the death.

June 4, 1999

"This is going to take a lot of work," Neville muttered.

Harry planted his hands on his hips and scanned the front hall optimistically. "Yeah. But I think it'll look great when we get it done."

"Only if we get that bloody portrait down," Ron shouted from an upper landing.

After a year with Puddlemere, and now that Ron was done with Hogwarts and had agreed to join him, Harry had decided to sign on with the Auror Department. Training started at the end of September. Neville, on the other hand, had an apprenticeship with an apothecary on Diagon Alley and had been looking for a place to stay in London. At first they'd thought about finding a flat, but then Harry suggested Grimmauld Place.

"We'll get the portrait down," he shouted back at Ron. They'd currently conjured a rough brick wall in front of Sirius' rabid mum so they wouldn't have to worry about the racket she was no doubt making. "Once we do I'll just send it upstairs with Kreacher, he'll be thrilled."

"Forget the portrait," Neville moaned. He nudged the carpet and stared dolefully at the puff of dust that floated up. "This place has got even filthier."

"We've got the whole summer," Harry said. "We can switch out the decorations, repaint, scrub it up. Before you know it this place will look like an honorary addition to the Gryffindor common room."

From behind the brick wall, he thought he heard a scandalized wail.

"Wouldn't it be easier to just get a flat?" Ron sighed, leaning over the railing of the second floor landing.

"There's too many bad memories in this house," Harry announced with feeling. "I say it's time somebody made it a good place instead."

September 3, 1999

"My!" Mrs. Weasley beamed. "You boys have worked a miracle!"

Harry grinned. "We've only got the first floor done so far, but I'd say it's an improvement."

"It certainly is," Mr. Weasley said with feeling. "I hardly recognize this room!"

All the nasty dark green and black of the previous décor had been chucked over the summer; the walls were totally repaired and painted bright yellow. A huge quashy red sofa squatted in front of the fireplace. Quidditch posters hung on the walls, there was a rack of broomsticks in the hall, and the new carpet was littered with thick throw pillows. The only piece of furniture that had survived the purge was the troll's foot umbrella stand, left in honor of Tonks.

"I've got a magical garden started in the back yard," Neville chimed in.

"We're working on the second floor next," Ron said. "We're going to leave Sirius and Regulus' rooms alone, though." It was doubtful they could have got far with Sirius' room even if Harry had wanted to touch it, and Hermione had been first to suggest aloud that Regulus' should be left as a sort of memorial. It was, after all, the only one he was likely to get. Kreacher had been in raptures for a week after Harry gave him full responsibility for its special maintenance.

"And you've gotten the portrait down?" Mrs. Weasley asked.

Three scowls met her. "No," growled Ron.

"But I'm working on it," Harry added quickly, shooting Ron a covert glare. Actually Hermione was working on it more than he was, researching for some way to reverse a modified Permanent Sticking Charm. So far they hadn't had any luck.

"Well," Mrs. Weasley said, "you've done an outstanding job so far. It's a place you can really live in. I never thought I'd see the day."

"Sirius would be delighted," Mr. Weasley added.

December 24, 1999

"I've been thinking," Hermione said aloud.

Harry glanced up from the snow. It was Christmas Eve again, and once more he and Ron and Hermione had agreed to visit Godric's Hollow. This time they were going to visit the cemetery and then scope out the shops (Ron had yet to find a present for Ginny). "Thinking what?"

"Well, I was thinking that once it warms up we ought to go back to your house and sort through things," Hermione said. "There might be things there that you want, especially in the boxes. And I'd think you wouldn't want to leave the pictures out there any longer. A couple more winters might ruin a lot of them, but right now we could still Reparo most of them."

Harry walked a little more slowly and glanced involuntarily in the general direction of the house. "I suppose I should."

June 1, 2000

"Harry, look at this!" Ginny had come dashing into the master bedroom, where Harry and Hermione were going through the things in the closet. It was the first of June; Ginny was on break from training with Holyhead and the other three had taken a week off from the Ministry. Harry had been dreading their appointed clean-up date for his house for months, expecting further emotional trauma, but it had actually turned out to be a good time so far. It was bittersweet at moments, but it seemed that two years had gone a long way towards healing the deadness inside him.

And there were a lot of neat things here. For example, he and Hermione had had a blast laughing over the twenty-years-outdated clothes in the closet, and Harry was presently wearing his dad's magically-restored England 1980 Quidditch World Cup championship jersey. Ron was going to drool when he saw the thing. He leaned out from behind the clothes rack, where he was trying to pry another box off the top shelf, and saw Ginny brandishing a little toy broomstick.

"Hey!" he crowed. "I think that's the one Sirius gave me for my first birthday. In the picture, remember?"

Ginny nodded enthusiastically and let go of it. It hovered a bit unsteadily at knee level. "Must be a good one, it still works."

Harry took a long, high, step over Hermione and dropped down to examine the little broom. "If I got it recharmed, Teddy would love this."

"And I fixed the stuffed animals," Ginny announced. One by one she handed him a restored plush gray wolf, a shaggy black Labrador puppy, and a fuzzy brown fawn. All of them had ribbon collars with nametags, which read Moony, Padfoot, and Prongs respectively. "Before you ask," she added more solemnly, "no, I didn't find any stuffed mice."

Harry felt vindictively happy about that. Looked like Wormy, if he'd ever had one back then, hadn't survived the elements. He rather hoped a bird had built a nest out of it.

"Oy," Ron called, trotting in, "I've found some photo albums in the library downstairs." He plunked down a thick stack of albums. They gathered around and spread them out on top of the bed. One was mostly Muggle pictures, all of his mum and Grandma and Grandpa Evans. A younger and even more horsey-looking Aunt Petunia featured in several and Harry couldn't help snorting. No wonder there hadn't been any childhood pictures of Aunt Petunia on display at 4 Privet Drive. Another album was mostly wizard pictures of his dad. Harry noted with special interest the pictures of his grandparents, wishing he knew what their names were. He could probably ask Professor McGonagall; distantly he wondered why he'd never thought to before. There was one album entirely of his dad and Sirius in a variety of ridiculous costumes, poses, and bizarre states of partial transfiguration; according to the note in the front it was from the summer before their seventh year. The last one was a wedding album.

"Thanks for finding these, Ron," Harry whispered thickly.

"Merlin," Ron marveled, still flipping through the third album and not having heard him, "your dad and Sirius were even barmier than us." Ginny snickered as he pointed out one shot in which Sirius was tearing frantically around with squid tentacles sprouting out of his nose and ears while James flicked Aguamentis at him.

"George would kill to see this album," she mused, turning the page. "Can you imagine how many ideas he'd get looking at this?"

Harry rallied his grin back. "We'll show it to him then, yeah?"

Between going through all the boxes, throwing some things away and repacking others to take back to Grimmauld Place, and putting the furniture somewhat to rights, it took them three days to finish going through the house. Ron and Hermione Apparated back to Grimmauld Place with the last of the boxes. Harry followed Ginny out of the house and gently tugged the front door shut, sealing it with a spell so it wouldn't swing open again. "I'm glad we did that," he said quietly. "I don't want to leave my family's past in ruins."

"It's time to move on," Ginny agreed. She took his arm. "Let's visit your parents before we leave. I haven't met them yet, you know."

"Can't have that," Harry said.

May 13, 2001

"Harry!" Ginny yelped. "What are you doing here?"

He had taken the day off work at the Ministry to go to the Harpies training field up north and surprise her. He'd finally managed to track her down to the locker rooms. Handing out the bouquet of flowers he'd brought, he said, "Happy twentieth birthday."

Her mouth spread into a wide smile as she unwrapped the towel from her freshly showered hair and took the flowers. "I thought you had to work today."

"Being the Boy Who Lived has its privileges," Harry said cheerfully. "I got Dedalus to give me the day off." He swung a basket out from behind his back. "How do you feel about a picnic?"

The picnic had been Hermione's suggestion and it was definitely a good one. She was beaming at him. "A picnic with my boyfriend on a bright May day, all by ourselves? Sounds good to me." He waited until she'd finished drying off her hair and gotten all her things put away in the locker, then walked her out of the training compound.

"So did you have a particular place in mind?" she asked.

"Grab my arm," he said mischievously, "I'll show you."

He Apparated carefully away with Ginny on his arm. They landed in a blooming green field, up in the Scottish highlands overlooking a village. A little ways off a brook was bubbling. The sun beat down a warm counterpoint to the brisk breeze that rolled the violets and dandelions in waves. Ginny breathed out in delight. "How did you find this place?"

"Actually," Harry said, "that's Godric's Hollow down there."

Ginny peered. "Oh, there's the church and the cemetery, I see now. And your house is there, then."

"I went to leave a wreath last week," Harry explained, "and then I went for a walk afterwards and found this place." He smiled a bit hesitantly. He hadn't been sure about bringing Ginny here for a romantic picnic—Ginny was all that was happy in his life, whereas Godric's Hollow brought out all the sadness—but he'd decided to go for it. "I thought you'd like it."

She turned to him, her eyes alight with that blazing look he loved so much. "I love it here, Harry."

April 21, 2003

"So where are we going to live?" Ginny asked.

Harry, who was still coasting on the giddy exhilaration of what she'd said last week—Yes, I will—blinked in surprise. He hadn't thought quite that far ahead yet. His mind was still back in the meadow over Godric's Hollow, where they'd taken so many walks and spent so many lazy afternoons in the past two years. "Um…"

"I'm going to need something a bit more concrete than um," Ginny said dryly.

"Well, Neville's moving to the Continent for a year to study Herbology," Harry told her, "and Ron's been talking about moving in with George over the shop. So…we could move into Grimmauld Place."

At the odd look on her face, he quickly added, "But if you don't like it there—"

"I like it alright," she said. "It's just not the best place to raise kids, is it?"

Another prospective husband might have been afflicted with a sudden case of cold feet, but Harry had been thoroughly sold on the idea of having children for years now thanks to his godson. "Teddy loves it there," he argued. "And there's room in the back for playground stuff, once I get rid of Neville's garden. Don't tell him about that, by the way."

"But it's in the city," Ginny objected. "I loved growing up out in the country. I want our kids to grow up someplace open. Like Ottery St. Catchpoole, or Godric's Hollow."

Harry had to admit, the Burrow with its broad empty lands was a brilliant place for kids. And he imagined that growing up with the Dursleys could have been almost bearable if they'd lived in a place like Godric's Hollow rather than Little Whinging. "Alright," he said. "What if we start out at Grimmauld Place and take our time until we find a place you really like?"

She considered for a moment. "On one condition. You have to get that portrait out of the hallway."

Harry groaned.

October 28, 2004

"So what did you think of the ones this morning?" Harry asked, spinning his spaghetti on his fork.

Ginny frowned as she set down her bottle of butterbeer. "Honestly, none of them felt right to me. I didn't like the layouts."

"I kind of liked the one in Morrisburg."

"That was the best one," Ginny admitted, "and I'd like if it weren't so isolated. I mean, there isn't another wizard family for seventy miles in any direction. I was hoping for a town more like Godric's Hollow."

Harry slurped his spaghetti off his fork and chewed for a long silent moment. Then he said, "We can look in Godric's Hollow if you really want—"

Ginny waved him off. "I'm not doing that to you, Harry." She sighed. "Maybe I'm just being too choosy. But I really want Jamie to grow up in the best possible place."

Harry's mind flew briefly back to the Burrow, where six-month-old James was no doubt being outrageously pampered by his grandparents. "You know, we could always just find land and build," he suggested. "That way you'd get exactly what you want."

Ginny paused. "That's a great idea."

Harry broke into a pleased smile. "So what kind of layout are you thinking of?"

"Actually," Ginny admitted, "I really like the way your house is built, for the most part."

"Well, let's go there after lunch and you can point out what you like."

"See," Ginny said, "supposing you added a new master bedroom and a nursery, downstairs, and maybe expanded the kitchen, that'd be exactly perfect. You could turn the nursery into a study or playroom or guest room or something later."

Harry surveyed the drab house. "Yeah, I think I see what you mean. I could start talking to Gringotts about it, see what kind of prices they'll quote me." Despite having immodest quantities of galleons in his vaults, Harry was never one to spend freely. He'd lived in a cupboard too long for that.

Ginny heaved a sigh. "It's such a shame about this house, though."

"What is?"

She waved her hand. "It just…well, it should have been such a happy place, a family place, like the Burrow, and instead it's just sitting here and falling slowly to bits. It's almost like admitting Voldemort won."

November 1, 2004

Arthur Weasley looked up from his workbench in surprise. "You want to renovate your parents' house?"

"Well," Harry said stubbornly, "I don't want to leave it the way it is because it's depressing and doesn't help anybody. But I can't just level the place. So yeah—I want to renovate it."

"But what are you going to do with it?"

Harry shrugged. "Maybe I can rent it or something. I just…want to put life back in it somehow. I don't want to let Voldemort win."

Mr. Weasley looked at him for a moment very seriously, then smiled a little bit. "Well, I guess I could help you with that."

February 1, 2004

"Dad?" Harry knocked lightly on Arthur's office door and walked in. His father-in-law was pulling on his cloak, ready to leave the office.

"Ah, Harry, have you settled on how we're going to start the house?" Arthur joined him as they headed out towards the elevators.

Harry gave him a wry smile. "Well, I thought about it a bit more. I think it wouldn't be especially smart to rent it out to a wizard family. The other day I caught a couple more blokes stealing planks off the side of it."

Arthur shook his head deprecatingly. This was not the first time in the last few years that they'd discovered souvenir hunters trying to carry away a bit of the house where Harry Potter had become the Boy Who Lived. The last time it happened, his son-in-law had been leveled with a fine for responding with rather more force than the Wizengamot deemed to be allowable. "I think you're right."

"So," Harry continued, "I went and talked to your old department about what I'd need to do in order to be able to rent it to Muggles."

Sure enough, Arthur's eyes ignited with that slightly maniacal fervor that was usually aroused by any reference to Muggles. "What did they tell you?"

"Turns out that if I'm going to rent to Muggles, the place has got to be repaired without magic," Harry finished cheerfully. "So, if you still want to help—I mean, I know it'll be a lot of really long, really hard work just by hand and we'll have to use all sorts of Muggle tools and whatnot—"

His father-in-law's face lit up brighter than the Ministry Christmas tree. "I don't suppose we could start today?"

They had to start by clearing out all the furniture that was left. They managed to use Reparo on a couple of pieces, but most of it had sustained so much weather damage that it was good for nothing but the rubbish heap. Harry felt a tight pang at the sight of his parents' furniture piled in a forlorn heap by the road, waiting for the trash lorry, but he steeled himself.

On the other hand, stripping the interior completely made it easier to look at the place with fresh eyes, to see a future instead of the past.

"I think," Arthur said, nose buried deep into his very battered, tried-and-true copy of The Everything Home Repair Book, "the first order of business has got to be fixing that roof." They went up to what had been Harry's nursery to inspect the worst of the damage, and then ventured on top by means of a ladder. Arthur finally declared that the whole roof was going to have to be replaced.

They worked together on the weekends, all day on Saturday and most of the afternoon on Sundays. It took quite a few months to finish the roof at that pace, even when they hired a Muggle carpenter to help them out with some of the trickier parts. Despite being pregnant again, Ginny didn't object, even though it meant that Harry missed a lot of days with James and they didn't have time to look for a place to build their own house. She seemed to think it was quite important, but she refused to come and visit the project. "It's for you and Dad to do together," she told him whenever he offered.

At first Harry felt guilty about it, but the guilt couldn't last for long. He soon came to think there could be nothing more satisfying in the whole world than spending a long day working on the house by hand, side-by-side with his father-in-law. Some Saturdays he took Teddy with him and the three of them would plod along, relaying flooring or hammering up new drywall or putting down fresh tile in the bathrooms. They made a fitting team in Harry's opinion—an older man who'd lost a son and a pair of orphans, all working together to resurrect life from the ashes of their sorrows. Maybe his mum and dad and the baby had all died, but their dream of a happy family life in this home would be reborn when a new family moved in. Harry couldn't think of a more fitting memorial than that.

December 1, 2004

"Harry, we really need to talk about our building plans," Ginny told him one Saturday at breakfast. He was trying to feed year-and-a-half-old James his breakfast, while she was nursing baby Albus.

"I know you're still busy with your house, but it won't be long before these two are on their feet," she continued. "I really want to move out to the country with them soon."

"I know, I'm sorry," Harry soothed, wiping bits of cereal off Jamie's check. "I think we've still got about four months of work left on the house, but I can start talking to the architects and at least get a blueprint for you. It shouldn't take nearly as long to build one magically."

Ginny pursed her lips and finally nodded.

February 2, 2005

"Dad? Are you here?"

"Got here half an hour ago," Arthur's voice echoed from the library. "I've been organizing the tools!"

Harry grinned as he followed the voice into the library, which had been doing double duty as their tool shed. Over the past months they had amassed quite a collection of Muggle building paraphernalia, which excited Dad Weasley to no end. "I've been thinking," he said. "Ginny and I have been working out blueprints for the house we want to build, and I thought it might be nice to add a couple of things to this one." He rolled out the rough drafts the architect had given them, pointing out the additions. "We've got plenty of land for it, after all."

Arthur studied it. "It'd be a lot of extra work."

"But I think it'd add to the market appeal," Harry said. "I can hire carpenters to do most of the building and we can just finish it. If you're up to it, that is, if not I can take it from—"

"I think I could bring myself to use that chainsaw just once more," Arthur cut him off happily.

April 27, 2005

Originally, Harry had just planned to add the new master bedroom off the library, but after talking to the carpenters he'd decided it just made more sense to put the new nursery Ginny wanted in there too. And then, well, why not put the big back screen porch in with the swings and all? And who was going to object to some more trees in the backyard? There might be kids living there too, so he went ahead and had the playground built…

It wasn't long before the idea of some random Muggle family moving in began to seem much less attractive. He and his father-and-law had poured their strength and care into this house for months on end, had spent whole days talking about family and raising troublesome boys and work and Quidditch and Muggle life, eating lunch on the floor upstairs, chasing Teddy around the yard outside. The house wasn't a graveyard of dreams anymore. He could walk through its restored halls and see the beautiful, cozy home it had been over two decades ago, and his mind could wander through whole months of good, fresh memories.

"You know," he said aloud as they painted the walls of the newly constructed master bedroom, "I've been thinking. Maybe I don't want to rent this place after all."

Arthur's brush kept sweeping up and down as he nodded sagely. "I didn't think you would."

May 13, 2005

"Happy birthday, love." Harry leaned over Ginny's shoulder and kissed her cheek, watching her break into a broad smile in the bathroom mirror. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled a small wrapped box out and set it on the counter by the sink.

"I get my present already?" she teased. "It must be good if you can't wait till I'm actually dressed."

"Open it and you'll see."

She tore off the paper and lifted the lid of a cardboard jewelry box. On the cotton inside perched a tooled bronze key with a sparkly Harpies logo keychain. She picked it up. "What's this?"

Harry wrapped his arms around her waist and dropped his chin on her shoulder with a very mischievous grin. "It's the key to your new house."

Her jaw dropped just before she spun around to face him. "But—but we haven't even bought land yet! How can you have built the house?"

"You get dressed, I'll get the boys, and then I'll show you," he said impishly.

They Flooed to the Burrow and dropped Jamie and Al off with their grandparents first. Then Harry walked Ginny outside the wards. "Hold on," he said, stretching his arm towards her. They landed just where he had hoped—right in front of the repaired gate of the house.

Ginny glanced around her for one moment before she turned to Harry with wide eyes. "Harry—this is your house!"

He shook his head. "Nope. This is our house."

"You don't have to do this," she breathed. "I told you, I'm not even going to ask you to live in Godric's Hollow again, but certainly not in this very same house—"

"Wait and see it," he told her. "Come on, let's go in."

He took her hand and tugged her up the path to the front door, pointing out the flowers they'd planted along the way. The door shone a smart dark red to match the new brick façade. With a gallant bow he swung it open for her. She went inside, still looking rather shell-shocked. It took about two seconds before she gasped loudly. "That's the chair I saw in McFarland's! You didn't!"

"I did." He stepped in and swung the door gently shut behind him, sauntering into the living room. "Note the custom matching sofas." The furniture, which Ginny had circled in one of the magical catalogs she'd been scavenging décor ideas from, had relieved his Gringotts vault of a considerable number of Galleons, which was no doubt why she'd never thought he'd buy it.

Her mouth was still hanging slightly open as she turned around the middle of the living room. "I can't believe you and Dad did all this by hand!"

"Well, Teddy helped"—Ginny snickered—"but I did have to hire Muggle workers to do some of it. Do you like it?"

"This is amazing," she murmured. "But…Harry…" She turned around to face him, rubbing a hand over her eyes briefly. "I just can't believe that you'd really be happy living here. I don't want to live anywhere at your expense, no matter how much I like it. I mean, even Grimmauld Place takes a toll on you sometimes."

"Come on, let me show you something." He led her up the stairs into the first bedroom. She breathed out softly as he switched on the light. The coat of blue paint that his mum and dad had begun two decades ago had finally been finished. A line of brightly tinted cartoon ducks waddled in a ring around the room just under the ceiling. Against one wall waited the crib that had been in the box. Moony, Padfoot, and Prongs sat in a neat row on the Jamie-sized pillow.

"This place was going to be my family's home," Harry said, walking up beside Ginny. "That's what my mum and dad wanted. After your dad and I had worked on it for awhile, I got to thinking that maybe it could still be my family's home after all. You know. Better late than never. I thought this could be Jamie's room, but we can save it too in case there's another one."

She turned to him. Her cheeks were tracked with quiet tears. "Are you sure about this?"

He stared at the floor. "Well, only if it's alright with you. I know I sort of sprang it on you and if you'd rather build, we can still do that—"

She took his face in her hands and planted a fierce kiss on him. "This house is perfect."

He burst into a broad smile, feeling for all the world like he was eleven and had just gotten an O on a Potions assignment. "And you haven't even seen all of it yet," he teased.

October 31, 2005

They made the move at the end of July. Everything was set in order just barely in time for them to hold a family-and-friends-wide bash on July 31st, in order to celebrate Harry's birthday and break in the new home all at once. Hagrid, upon squeezing through the front door for the first time since 1981, came practically to pieces and clutched Harry up in a massive bear hug before presenting him with a young snowy owl named Bridget. The annual Weasley three-on-three Quidditch tournament was held in the spacious backyard, followed by the Potter-Weasley Summer Seek-Off, in which Harry tallied his fourth victory over Charlie. The crowd of young nieces and nephews started a game of tag around the house and Ron was upbraided by Hermione for dropping her contribution of cherry pies on the new cream carpet. By the time everyone went home, it felt as if they'd lived there in Godric's Hollow their whole lives.

Dust began to accumulate on the new surfaces and the dish cupboards went back to being moderately disorganized. All the family pictures—Ginny's brothers and sisters-in-law, the growing flock of nieces and nephews, a stiff Christmas postcard from Dudley and Amy, and the old framed photos Harry had scavenged from the house before renovating it—could just barely crowd into the mantelpiece and front hallway. It took Jamie scarcely a week before his new bedroom was just as disarrayed as the old one. Ginny and Albus came down with colds once or twice. Teddy came to spend the weekends as usual, sleeping in the upstairs room that had once been Harry's nursery and was now a spare bedroom, until Al got big enough for a room of his own. Harry had to go to Romania one week towards the end of October to handle the extradition of a discovered Death Eater. Life went on and Harry soon forgot to think of what Godric's Hollow had once meant.

He remembered when he came home from work on Halloween. Jamie had been dying all day to show off the costume he had made with Ginny; he was going to be a Norwegian Ridgeback. Ginny had cut a row of spiny scales out of cardboard and added a specially conjured papier-mâché dragon tail to a long-sleeved gray shirt, then done up his face with paint. Albus, meanwhile, was wearing a bunny-ears headband and snuggled in his pushchair, which had been decorated with black paper and a cardboard rim to look like a silk top hat from the front. Harry forced down his sudden pensive mood and took them around the houses while Ginny stayed to dole out candy.

Despite all his excitement and despite ingesting an unconscionable amount of sugar, Jamie was still small enough to be thoroughly exhausted inside an hour, and it was too chilly to keep Al out for long besides. They headed back home and Jamie exhibited his new candy stash to Ginny before she took him upstairs to go to bed. Harry found himself sitting on the sofa with Albus cooing cheerfully in his lap, staring silently out the bay window of the living room at the street of costumed merry-makers. Twenty-four years ago he'd been not much older than Albus, sitting here with his dad, with no idea that his world would unravel in a matter of minutes.

Ginny came up behind him a moment later and sat down on the back of the sofa. "Are you alright?" she asked softly. "You seemed a bit off when you left with the boys."

"Just thinking," Harry said quietly. "I was just about his age, you know." He shifted Al around in his lap. Ginny reached down to brush his sloppy black hair into better order.

"Mum said I shouldn't, but I thought about taking them to Ottery St. Catchpoole tonight instead," she said. "In case being here was too hard on you."

He tugged Al's thumb out of his mouth with a small smile. "It's wonderful being here tonight."

Ginny stood abruptly and came to sit next to him. "That's the last thing I expected from you. You lost your family here."

With Albus cuddled between them, Harry leaned over and kissed her, long and quiet. "Only for a while," he told her. "This year I'm home again."