Why hello again, Dan! ^.^ I've come back for more!
So, I have to start by pointing out what is quite possibly an extremely arbitrary detail to be bringing up at all, but whatever, I'm doing it anyway: that opening paragraph cracks me up! Not because it's particularly funny, but because it's just this long list of honorable and/or cherished titles - ranging from Order of Merlin First Class to grandfather - that comes to a close with Harry doing the most normal thing in the world: simply chillin' outside sipping on some water and chatting with his wife! LOL All he ever really wanted was normalcy, and there it is. hahaha Love it.
There is something so endearing about 64 year old, grandfather Harry. The way he talks about his granddaughter, Lillian, getting sorted, and then about their interaction after one of his classes (love that he's teaching, by the way - I assume DADA?) and it makes him all misty eyed... ugh, so sweet. In fact, every time he thinks fondly about any of his children or grandchildren, it just warms my heart! It says to me that life after the war was mostly good to him, which is really what he deserved. After a childhood with the Dursley's, it's just nice to see that he got a true family of his own in the end. :)
And the Neville bit! Ha! I think he'd be a great Headmaster, and it was a really sweet touch to mention how the portraits of all the Headmaster's past seem to approve of him, with the exception of the ever surly Snape, still with the power to frighten Neville, even in pint-sized proportion! hehehe Poor kid can't catch a break from that man, can he? ;)
...So I'm about a quarter of the way through this chapter, and I was just hit with the overwhelming feeling that Ginny might be dead... She hasn't said a word yet and Harry's just rambling on and... I don't know, man, did you kill her off? *reads on* Still hasn't said what's happening outright yet, but the more I read, the more I think that perhaps she's still there and alive, only there's something seriously wrong with her... like Alzheimer's or something akin to what Alice and Frank Longbottom suffered from... Eep! I'm all nervous now! *bites nails* OH GOD HE'S CRYING, IT'S COMING - WHAT IS IT? O_O
No! Dan! She's dead! Ugh, my heart! I don't even like Ginny all that much, but the way you built that up and revealed it was so gut-wrenching! I mean, this right here: "Why her? Why not me? . . . I'm supposed to protect everybody. Why couldn't I save her?" Rip my heart out, why don't you? Really, it's beautifully unfolded and incredibly sad. Harry always did struggle with survivor's guilt, and he's so hard on himself when someone passes and he's unable to stop it. I can't tell if whatever took Ginny's life was something that he actually could have prevented, but I think it's probably just him taking responsibility for something that he would never have been able to control, no matter what he'd done differently. I assume we'll eventually learn what killed her? *pokes for information* :-p
Even after he sobers, the ending is still quite heavy and emotional. This part is particularly poignant: "At the moment, it sat empty with all the children off at school and the adults going about their daily lives. Almost as empty as Harry felt." It must feel impossible at times to be all alone in that big house, and it sounds like he's about at his wits end. I have to hope that he doesn't do anything so foolish as give up on his own life to be with Ginny, because as someone with a relatable experience, I can tell you that that would be really unfair of him to do to his kids and grandchildren and friends - anyone who cares about him, really - because you don't walk on your family like that. It's selfish, and Harry is better than that. At least I certainly hope he is... *glares at Dan* ;) I'm under the impression that he'll soldier on, though, because that intro springs to my mind... I feel like he must have died much more heroically... ah, I don't know! I suppose I'll just have to keep reading to find all of this out, huh? I have no problem doing that. :-p
Anyway, back to some other stuff: I love the way you've worked in details about Harry's family and the life he's grown into during the 20+ years since we last saw him in the epilogue. It's just small little bits and pieces that help us string together the time that's passed without overloading us with information. I think I mentioned this in my last review, but I really dislike it when too much information is doled out all at once, because it just becomes too much to keep track of so immediately. You've spread it out and really only given us the bare minimum to hang onto for now, which is perfect because it's still enough to connect the dots. It makes for a really pleasant read.
So basically, after all of that which has now been said, I've drawn but one conclusion: You're a great writer, dude. ^.^ Seriously, this was another excellent chapter, my friend, and I sincerely look forward to reading on!
P.S. Happy 1,000th review, Dan. ;)
Author's Response: Hi, Tanya! Time to catch up on answering reviews and that means responding to this one, probably the most rewarding review I've gotten since the very first one. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
I did want to start this chapter off by showing Harry in a completely relaxed moment of total, mundane, bland, ordinary normalcy. Because I agree with you. That's what he always wanted growing up and he could never really have it.
Believe me, I got *very* endeared to "grandpa Harry" while I was writing this. Again, I just loved that idea of his life ending up happy and normal. Well, as normal as Harry Potter's life was ever going to be, at any rate. Harry is sort of like a guest lecturer at Hogwarts. He teaches a basic defense class for first years and an advanced dueling class for sixth and seventh years. It winds up being a form of recruiting for the Aurors, not that he doesn't enjoy doing it just because.
Neville is a fantastic Headmaster. You'll find out just how good later on...
Your intuition is... well, I'm sad to say that it's accurate. One thing I learned while writing this story is that finishing a long novel involves making a lot of tough choices. The choice to not have Ginny be part of this story -- well, most of it, anyway -- was the hardest choice I made. It was really sad for me, because here Harry is living this relatively charmed life and he loses the one person he most wants to share it all with. You'll find out much more about the circumstances surrounding her untimely death as the story unfolds. There isn't much I could tell you at this point without totally ruining it for you.
I think I've said it in a dozen or more review responses: at the time, this chapter was the most emotional thing I'd ever written. I wasn't at all sure I'd done it justice until I had a few more chapters under my belt and I could go back and reread it. Reading it still makes me sad, even to this day. I guess that suggests I did an OK job with it.
Sometimes when I reread this chapter -- which I don't do often because it's sad -- I feel like maybe I dumped too much back story into it. Other times I don't. Eh, who am I kidding, I'm almost certainly not changing it at this point. I'd have to probably reword the next 4 chapters to get all of the information back in.
What can I say? You made my day, my week, and I think I'll always look back fondly on the month of April 2014. Thank you so much!