It was July 30th and Harry Potter was sitting by the edge of a lake looking somewhat pensive. It still felt strange to Harry, three years after the defeat of Voldemort, to be free from the constant shadow of fear that seemed to cloud over him. Harry sat, letting the wind blow over him, reveling in this freedom. When the sun started to set, Harry got up, brushed the dirt off of his worn jeans, and began walking along the path which led back to his home.
Home, Harry thought briefly. Funny how my view of home has changed through the years. When he was younger, home meant Number Four Privet Drive, a place he would always remember dreading. Life with the Dursleys meant living as a shadow, trying to avoid others lest he be noticed.
After his first year at Hogwarts, however, his notion of home had changed. It was when he was leaving on the Hogwarts Express to return to the Dursleys' that he realized he was not returning home like so many of the other students on the train were. Home to him had become Hogwarts itself, from feasts in the Great Hall, to hiding from Filch and Mrs. Norris, to Quidditch celebration parties in the Gryffindor common room, to the hominess of Hagrid's hut and the darkness of the Forbidden Forest.
Harry strolled on, enjoying the breeze as it played along his robes, mussing his hair even more than usual. It was during the summer after his fifth year that he realized home had changed meaning for him again. Following the death of Sirius, Harry thought he had lost all of the family who cared about him. After he tried to pull away from others and into himself, his friends had intervened. Remus, the Weasley family (minus Percy), Hermione, Hagrid, Neville, Luna, Dean, Seamus, Lavender, and Parvati had each in their own way showed him how much they loved him and that he could no longer use the fact that Voldemort would try to kill those near and dear to Harry to push others away. Harry realized his friends would bully themselves into his life no matter what and that life was not worth living without having the friendships and closeness of others. His home had become not a place, but the love that he shared with others.
Harry felt a twinge of pain in his heart as he thought of those who had fallen during the war with Voldemort. George had died protecting his twin's family from a Death Eater attack while Fred was away on a mission for the Order. Percy, who came to his senses during Harry's seventh year and was no longer blinded by Fudge, was killed on an intelligence-gathering mission for Dumbledore. Dean Thomas' ingenious idea of utilizing portraits of past Order members to improve communications within the Order earned him the Avada Kedavra curse. Remus, killed at the silver hand of Wormtail. Colin, Parvati, Hannah, Charlie -- all taken early from the wizarding world, but not from their loved one's memories or hearts.
As Harry walked up the steps leading into his cottage, he contemplated his new sense of home. Sitting on the sofa in the dimly lit living room, he was startled by a soft popping noise coming from the kitchen. He smiled, got up, and went to the kitchen to embrace his wife.
"Have a good time shopping today, love?" Harry asked Ginny, his eyes roving over the packages. She smiled and her eyes twinkled.
"No going near those packages, Harry Potter!" Ginny scolded playfully. "You know they're for your birthday tomorrow, andľ" Harry stopped Ginny's teasing by planting a gentle kiss on her lips. Ginny was here, and now he was truly home.
Special thanks to Gwyn for being such wonderful and patient friend and pre-Beta!
Thanks to Daily Prophet Reporting for having patience with my lack of knowledge in the grammar department!