It had taken two years for Harry to find out that he had inherited a house from Sirius and two more years to find the time and nerve to go to it. Located between Hogwarts and Hogsmeade, and securely under Anti-Apparitionwards, the house was a place Harry was reluctant to visit.
Since finishing Hogwarts, he was faced with the situation of finding a place to live, and the house left to him was perfectly suitable… close to Dumbledore, with old spells for magical protection. It had been left to Sirius by an uncle, and it was incredibly tempting, since he had been living out of a suitcase for the past two years.
Nevertheless, it had taken days to get up the nerve to check it out. Even though he wouldn't admit it, he had a fear of portraits badgering him with questions, screaming insults, or even worse, mentioning Sirius. He wasn't sure he could face what lay behind those walls, or how many times he would be reminded of his godfather. The feelings of guilt, anger… The feelings of guilt and anger had subsided over time. those had subsided. He had lost the desperation to see Sirius again.
In fact, Harry was trying his hardest to never think of him, or the lost chances to find out about his parents. It was a blessing that Mrs. Weasley was efficient. By the time he saw Grimmauld Place again, there was no resemblance in its bright, cheery walls to the house that held all the memories of Sirius. And now he was faced with a situation that could easily be one he'd been trying to avoid all along. Harry sighed at the irony and made a move to the front door, keys in hand. He'd spent enough time staring at the front door, lost in thoughts.
The house was a large, yellow Victorian, with gabled roofs and a turret winding up one side, all of which was decorated with white woodwork, making it look like a gingerbread house. It seemed almost to sprawl everywhere at once. There were blue shutters on the windows and green trim around the doors that made Harry think of the quirkiness of the Burrow. The green front door had a starburst glass inlay in the center that was oddly hypnotic, despite being clouded with dust. Putting the key to the lock, Harry glanced about the porch, checking to make sure that he was really alone. Shaking his head, he recognized his paranoia and leaned into the key, hearing the grinding sound of the lock opening.
Harry stepped into the dark foyer with relief. Everything was silent. He moved further into the entryway, and the glass lamps lining the hall lit up. Shutting the door behind himself absently, he looked up to see a charmed ceiling mimicking the bright sunrise outside. The hall was just as cheery as the outside of the house, with light orange walls, and pictures of fruit hanging everywhere in a slapdash manner. It was almost a relief to face the front entryway and step inside; there were no talking portraits here.
Venturing further, he discovered a library, dining room, and kitchen before stumbling across the master bedroom on the first floor. At this point, Harry gaped in awe. The room was a pale green, with massive, dark green furniture. Light, airy scarves twined about the poster bed and at the huge windows, giving the room a lifelike quality. The bed was topped with a glossy coverlet swirled with light green and blue, and when Harry flopped onto it, he looked up to another charmed ceiling.
As Harry walked into the bathroom, he kept his eye on the ceiling, and was pleased to find that it continued into that room as well. After that, he actually looked at the bathroom and gaped; it put the prefect's bathroom to shame! He had always known that Sirius' family had money, but he had never pictured anything like this. At the thought of Sirius, he sobered again, but continued his exploration of the house with growing excitement.
On the second floor, he found a nursery, a sitting room, two bathrooms, and a host of bedrooms, all decorated in different mixes of calming colors. He'd begun to notice the effect the house had upon him; every time he had started to stress about something, it seemed to release a calming air. He gave a slight grin as he realized that the house was probably doused in some version of a cheering charm. It was indeed starting to grow on him.
Climbing up the second set of stairs, Harry found that the third floor had a large playroom with a few toys scattered on the floor, and a large amount of boxes stacked against the wall. There was another bathroom, and a few more bedrooms, and the tiny, narrow stairs to the attic. At this point, Harry had become a bit suspicious about the lack of portraits in the house. With the exception of the fruit, he hadn't seen much of anything on the walls, not even a talking mirror, which was decidedly odd for a wizarding house. He stopped short when he reached the attic, knowing that someone, probably Dumbledore, had removed the portraits from the walls. They were stacked upon each other up here, sheets covering them, scattered among bits of old furniture and trunks. Harry turned to leave, glad someone had remembered his trepidation, and resolved to face the paintings later--much later if they were anything like the portrait of Sirius' mother. He started to grin at that point. Merlin help him if the painting screamed bloody murder, he'd end up slashing it before knowing who it was.
With a chuckle, Harry finished looking through the house and made his way back to Hogwarts, where he'd left his belongings before coming over to explore. Thinking of his small trunk, Harry was relieved that the house still retained its furnishing — he didn't have anything to his name other than the trunk, some schoolbooks, Hedwig's cage, and a broomstick.
Enlisting the help of Hagrid, Harry carried his belongings back to the house and watched his back, wishing he wasn't talking so loudly. He immediately felt guilty for thinking bad of Hagrid, but couldn't help his paranoia. Harry wished they were taking the tunnel from Hogwarts to the house, but understood the need for secrecy; however, the situation left him anything but comfortable.
As they approached, Hagrid broke into a grin over Harry's trunk. "Would you look at that," he beamed. "It's a bloomin' mansion, Harry! Yer a lucky chap, this bein' so big an' close to Dumbledore an' all."
Harry smiled back, pleased at Hagrid's reaction. "I do like it. I didn't think I would, but it's very nice. Absolutely way too big, but it's the nicest thing I've ever owned."
Hagrid gave him a heavy swat to the back which Harry supposed was a pat. Taking his trunk and setting it in a corner, Harry drew a deep breath. It was instantly relaxing. "Well, what's ‘er name?" Hagrid questioned, stooping below the ceiling.
"All wizards' houses have names, Harry. Like the Burrow, or . . . well, you know what I mean," Hagrid explained.
Harry wrinkled his brow in thought for a moment, and gazed around at the pictures of fruit blindly. When his eyes landed on the glass inlay on the door, he crunched his eyebrows even further together. "How about . . . the Lighthouse? Does that sound good?"
Hagrid gave a large smile. "The house sure is bright, an' it does make sense." He paused. "I like it," he pronounced, before turning to leave. "If yer ever in the mood fer some tea, come an' visit me, Harry!" he yelled over his shoulder.
Harry grinned at Hagrid's retreating back, and shut the front door. According to Dumbledore, someone would be over to set charms to protect the house. Glancing at the clock, he dragged his trunk into the bedroom, deciding to unpack as he waited. Pulling his clothes out of the trunk, Harry looked grimly at the closet. His clothes barely took up a quarter of the space, and his boxers looked lonely in the large armoire. Placing his assorted schoolbooks on the bookshelf, he glanced around again, taking in the calming atmosphere. It really is a lighthouse, Harry mused. It's a beacon of hope.
Ginny carried the small trunk behind her as she trailed up the front walk, mouth agape at the sprawling Victorian. It's beautiful, she breathed to herself, then shut her mouth determinedly. Continuing up to the door briskly, she rapped on the door, bringing her trunk into her hands.
Harry sauntered toward the front door, hand close to his wand as he neared it. Opening it cautiously, his eyes widened as he saw Ginny Weasley standing there holding some sort of trunk. He forced a bit of a smile on his face. "Uh . . . hi, Ginny, this isn't the best of times . . . "
Ginny made a noise of frustration. "Now, I know you hate balls, Harry, but you must get new dress robes for the Ministry party. Be a man about this, all I need to do is a little measuring," she said with a small grin.
He was about to protest, but swore he saw Ginny give a wink as she pushed past him. "All right, but this better not take long," he agreed, still wondering what Ministry party she was talking about.
"There's a good boy," Ginny replied, her grin getting larger. She dropped her trunk as she got inside, and turned to face him. "A bit dense, aren't we?" she questioned, her gaze wandering to take in the charmed ceiling.
Harry gave a slight smile and a shrug. "You know me. Now, could you explain what this is about? I never heard anything about a Ministry party."
Ginny broke into peals of laughter. "That's because there is no Ministry party!I'm the person Dumbledore sent to charm your house, but not very many people know that I'm involved in this stuff. I design dress robes for Madam Malkin as a cover, thus the trunk and the excuse about the Ministry party." She wagged a finger at him. "You never know who can be listening or watching."
"When did you get so good at charms, Miss Weasley?" Harry questioned, reflecting her grin.
"You could say it started with the creation of the Bat Bogey Hex, and ‘took off' from there," she replied with a laugh.
"It's good to see you, Ginny, it's been too long. How's the family?"
"We're hanging in there. Fred and George's joke shop is wonderful, and Mum's doing better with things, now that there's more than just the Order fighting against You-Know-Who. And Fudge's recent resignation helped her mood," she added.
"Helped mine too," Harry said with a harsh laugh that sounded more like a bark. "Been waiting for that bastard to go for quite some time."
Ginny patted his shoulder reassuringly. "Mum's worried about you. You know, eating well and such. She doesn't want you to be a stranger. No one eats as well as you," she added with a mischievous giggle.
Harry groaned. "I'm never going to live that down, am I?"
With a shake of her head, Ginny replied, "Nope. I don't care that you hadn't eaten for a day. It was so funny, you shoving that food in your mouth, and Mum doing that dance for joy that someone would eat that ridiculous recipe out of Witch Weekly."
Harry joined her giggles with a deep laugh that trailed off slowly. "Ah, Gin, I've missed you. Do you want a cup of tea?"
She gave a nod, an unreadable look on her face, and quickly checked her newly-bobbed hair in a compact when his back was turned. He called me Gin, she thought in a rush. What the hell? No one ever calls me anything but Ginny, not even Mum! With a shrug, she moved into the kitchen, observing the windows and the cheery demeanor that was instantly relaxing.
"So, how do you like the Lighthouse?" Harry asked, handing her a cup.
"Is that what you named it? It's beautiful, so . . . relaxing," Ginny added.
Harry gave a short laugh. "Yes, it is." Then he seemed to realize how he was talking, since he continued with, "Look at me, talking your ear off while you're probably dying to get to work. Next time just tell me to shut up."
Ginny smiled. "No, it's fine, really. I haven't seen you in such a long time, but we can talk after I'm done. Now, we don't want a secret keeper, this house is too noticeable to disappear. We want . . . " she left off, grabbing a notepad out of her pocket and jotting ideas on it.
Harry raised his eyebrows. For a second there she reminded him of Hermione, always making lists and such. Then she looked up and caught his eye and he realized that Ginny was like no one else he knew. Since when did she have such a fire in her eyes? And when did she cut her hair? He shook his head impatiently, clearing his thoughts when he realized that she was speaking to him. "Pardon?"
"I said, would you mind me taking a look around the house to see if there's any charms I might want to add?" she asked with another smile.
Harry shook his head. "Oh, no, go ahead. Do you mind if I come along?"
"Of course not," she replied, then paused. "Do you think you'll be lonely here, with only Hedwig?"
Harry gave her a wistful smile. "Probably. But I'm used to it now."
Ginny smacked his arm impatiently. "Silly git. You don't have to be used to it. You should come to the Burrow more often and visit us!"
"And you should know by now how impossible it is," Harry replied impatiently.
Ginny rolled her eyes and tried to deepen her voice and look official. "Auror business." Then she looked him in the eye. "Nothing is impossible, Harry. You just have to find ways around the obstacles."
Harry deflated. "Yeah, you're right. But you better not gloat," he warned her.
"Who, me?" Ginny questioned, opening her eyes wide and batting her eyelashes. She started giggling again at Harry's laugh and went up the stairs to the attic. "Oh, my . . . "
He winced. "I know. I think every bloody picture ever painted is in this attic right now. Which is fine by me, but . . . it's going to take too much time to go through them all."
"Well, I'm sure no one could be worse than Mrs. Black," she comforted with a pat to the arm.
"You're probably right. Have you got all your notes?"
"Yes, I do, just give me a second, we'll be setting your house up to be another Hogwarts. I'm just happy I don't have to set up Anti-Apparation wards. Those are bloody awful."
"I suppose they are," Harry replied absently, more intent on the retreating figure in front of him. Sitting himself at the kitchen table, he watched her fling colored spells at different walls, windows, and floors for a quarter of an hour before she sat herself back at the table for her now-cold tea.
"So how do these protection charms work?" he questioned. "Do you get them out of books?"
"Well, what good would that be, if they could just look up how to reverse it?" Ginny countered. "I just combine elements from spells I like, and some I make up, so they're almost impossible to break. Even Bill has trouble with them, and he knows how I make them," she finished proudly.
Harry looked at Ginny with admiration. "That's amazing, Gin. So what exactly did you do?"
Ginny flushed with pleasure. "Well, it's fairly simple. I did a ward similar to the Dissillusionment charm on the house, and then added a few things from Egyptian Curse Masters. I set up a perimeter around the house and sealed the entrances. If the person coming toward the house is someone you want to see, they won't have any problem. If the person is someone you don't want to see, but doesn't mean you harm, it will just be a barrier they can't cross. If the person coming means you harm, an alarm will go off, and you can take the tunnel in the basement back to Hogwarts while my wards attack the intruder with some jinxes and other nasties I've learned. And the great thing about all this, is that you know exactly who is coming, no matter what the situation is."
The admiration on Harry's face grew as Ginny talked. It was the first time he had felt safe in quite some time, and it had come from a most-unexpected source. With a grin, he spoke up. "Well, you seem to be my new redheaded security blanket," he joked, then sobered. "Thank you so much, you have no idea how much this really means to me . . ."
Ginny looked into his eyes searchingly before answering softly, "I think I do."
They sat for a few moments in companionable silence before the clock struck eight, leaving Ginny shooting straight up in the air, hand over her mouth in startled surprise. "I've got to go! My new designs are supposed to be in tomorrow morning! Oh, Harry, thank you for the tea," she rushed, putting her things together and transfiguring her trunk into a backpack after pulling out a broom. "And I meant it when I said not to be a stranger," she added, staring into his face again with her disconcerting brown eyes.
"All right, Ginny," Harry replied, walking her to the door. "Take care."
Leaning against the doorframe, Harry glanced down at the floor muttering to himself. If the walls could hear the words beautiful, I'm, and stupid, they weren't talking. Instead, they left Harry to his solitude and an evening petting Hedwig as he listened to WWN. All in all, it was not the dream evening any twenty-year-old envisioned after seeing a woman he had a crush on, and having it brought back to life.
But those thoughts were firmly shoved aside as Harry fell asleep on the couch to a burning scar and the dreams of death that haunted his life.