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New Beginnings, Strange Endings

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Rain clawed at the windows of flat no. 7 of Hamsworth Place, London. It was uncomfortably warm; the air seemed to stick to everything it touched like a thick layer of tar. This late July thunderstorm had been expected and forecasted – the whole city of London seemed to have dried up and become unbearably hot over the past few weeks. This was required, but not necessarily fully appreciated.

Harry James Potter, however, did not feel the need for the angry downpour against his window at an hour that felt this ungodly. Rolling over to glance at the digital clock – a muggle invention – on his wooden bedside table; he read 07:10 and groaned in response. He wasn’t generally one for sleeping in, but being woken up this early on a Sunday surely was, as the muggles say, taking the piss. Undefeated, he sunk his face directly into his pillow in a fight to return to his interrupted slumber. Most mornings consisted of a similar initial refusal to move; besides, where was there for him to be?

It was three years since the final battle: three years since Voldemort fell. Harry had since moved to his own flat, alone, in muggle London in an attempt to live a normal life away from newspaper headlines, interviews, and autographs. This worked whilst Harry lived amongst muggles – the fidelius charm he had cast over his home kept him safe from the prying eyes of the wizarding world. But, naturally, every time Harry stepped foot anywhere near wizard territory the cameras were pointed, the eyes were wide and the questions were asked. At first, Harry was stubborn enough to avoid any and all busy wizard-related locations for an entire year after the war ended, leading to suspicion and rumours in the Daily Prophet. Harry didn't care, he was just glad that they had no new information regarding him to twist into why their Saviour is anything but that, despite his defeating of the most notorious dark wizard in history.

Harry’s commitments lay in regular visits to Ron and Hermione (who were still his best friends) and their new-born daughter: Rose Granger-Weasley. Hermione was also to thank for Harry’s flat – a friend of her cousin, or something like that, was moving out of it and ended up selling it to Harry. Rose seemed to like Harry, or so he hoped; she had cried throughout roughly half the times he had held her, and only about a third of those crying fits had started after Harry had initially cradled her in his arms. Moreover, there was a monthly visit to the Burrow to see Molly and Arthur Weasley – the pair who had practically raised Harry alongside Ron and his six other siblings since his first year at Hogwarts - whilst accompanied by the Granger-Weasley trio and Teddy: Harry’s three-year-old godson. Visiting the Burrow always entailed a hearty meal, loud laughter and, occasionally, the company of other family members who had decided to visit, too, such as Bill, the eldest Weasley brother, his wife, Fleur, and their baby girl, Victoire – she and Teddy got along very well, he even allowed her to play with his toy dragon: a Swedish short snout, nonetheless (this was a Christmas present from Charlie Weasley). It was Harry’s weekly duty to babysit young Teddy from Wednesday to Friday. The bright, blue-haired toddler (who was a metamorphagus, like his mother had been) would be brought over by his grandmother, Andromeda Tonks, to Harry’s flat weekly so she could have her break from being his guardian. Teddy, like so many other children, was sadly left an orphan of wizarding war: of Voldemort, just like Harry was. This lead to Harry being determined to give Teddy some form of a father figure, even if he wasn't by his side constantly. Teddy would stay in Harry's guest room, which he now knew as Teddy’s room. Harry kept a small supply of toys, crayons and chocolate frogs on hand in preparation for Teddy’s visits (though he himself was partial to the last of these). The sapphire-haired youngster loved to play with Harry, who assumed this was because he was slightly more engaged than Andromeda when it came to roaring like a Hungarian horntail in unison with a giggling three-year-old. Teddy truly was like the little brother, if not the son, that Harry had never had. These weekly visits kept Harry feeling optimistic: the innocence of young Teddy always kept him this Gryffindor grounded.

In terms of his finances, Harry’s inherited riches were far from running out – after all, his grandfather had been the creator of Sleekeazy’s hair potion which had supposedly quadrupled the Potter family’s gold. Harry did not care for his money and rarely spent it on himself (he would always spoil his friends on their birthdays, anniversaries and at Christmas alongside purchasing regular gifts for his godson), however, he appreciated the fact it allowed him to remain unemployed. Though, for the time being, determined to distance himself from the wizarding world and being adapted to how muggles live, he would have definitely struggled if attempting to work among the non-magic folk. Of course, wizarding jobs were out of the question; the three years since the war ended had entailed Harry’s declining of seven different offers of Auror training from the Ministry of Magic. Harry was perfectly aware that by now he could have been head Auror, earning thousands of galleons annually, if he had accepted one of the first offers. However, he would have sooner taken on an army of brutal blast-ended skrewts than face any more dark magic willingly; he’d done enough of that to count for the vast majority of the wizarding population before he was even of age.

The war had, of course, left its scars. These were physical, littered all over Harry’s body like disturbing souvenirs of battle, but mainly psychological. Harry hardly slept, ate or spoke for a long time after the final battle: the first year away from the curious and suspicious eyes of the wizarding world had been one of the worst of Harry's entire life. In that time he broke off his relationship with Ginny Weasley (who had now, surprisingly, fallen for Luna Lovegood, a Ravenclaw school friend of theirs whilst pursuing her career in professional quidditch for the Holyhead Harpies). Due to the fact that Harry was practically another Weasley brother, he and Ginny were still as close as ever. Harry was incredibly proud of her and impressed by her chosen career path. He had also been approached by many professional teams regarding the role of their seeker position, but that involved being in the spotlight, which was exactly what Harry was avoiding. A mere seven months after Harry had taken Voldemort down with his own rebounding curse, he had reached out to a muggle therapist in an attempt to get some form of closure and help. Claiming to have fought in a muggle conflict, he opened up, explaining that he had to kill others and watch his own people die. The therapist was a kind woman, around thirty with dirty blonde hair and a naturally tanned completion, slightly lighter than Harry’s own. Albeit little could be done for Harry without him attempting to explain an entire magical war that went on right beneath her world’s noses (which would have likely lead to her questioning his mental health even further than she already was), he still appreciated knowing someone who thought of him as completely normal. To her, he wasn’t ‘The Boy Who Lived’, ‘The Chosen One’ or ‘The Saviour of Wizarding Kind’: he was just Harry Potter.

In the end, Harry knew taking up this woman’s time was a waste of her skills and that he had to work through things with the help of those who had been by his side as it all happened. He needed people who understood. More than once he and Ron had stayed up drinking firewhiskey into the early hours of the morning, discussing the people they had lost, attempting to remain dry-eyed so it seemed less real. Harry had allowed his defences to fall around both Hermione and Ron, more than once flooing to their home, unannounced, in a dismal state. With alcohol on his breath, tears down his face and panic in his eyes, Harry needed his friends more than ever in these times. No one could truly get through to him when he was in such a state, but the person who could do the closest thing to calming Harry down was Ron. Hermione could stem the flow of tears, but Ron could stop Harry’s verbal lashing out. Harry never listened to what he had to say, all words of reassurance would wash over him like a wave, but Ron would stop his yelling and consequently calm him down slightly. However, this wasn’t always enough; Harry longed for the day he found someone who would truly know him: someone to simply love him.

Hermione and Ron loved him, for certain. He was like a brother to each of them; they would undoubtedly give almost anything for him, and this applied vice versa. Teddy loved him, too: Harry was his father figure, his hero, his example to follow (this undeniably terrified Harry). The other members of the Weasley family definitely loved him as well – he was practically one of them, as we already know. But no one’s stomach fluttered like butterflies on a spring morning because of Harry. No one knew every detail of the dark hairs on his tanned arms or the way he used a spell to make his bed but never to make his tea – it was unlikely that anyone knew Harry’s odd habit of using magic for almost every domestic task that doesn’t involve preparing something for consumption, like making his dinner; he always did that himself, it was simply his way of doing things. Everyone knew Harry Potter, but no one knew Harry.

Indeed, he had shared a few fleeting kisses with Cho Chang (who he believed had now shacked up with a muggle), but this felt like a lifetime ago. He had also had a little over six months of holding Ginny's hand in the castle hallways and snogging in broom cupboards. But neither of those girls truly knew him – that was not love. And besides, Ginny's newfound discovery of women just goes to show how real their relationship had been (though Harry’s memories of their short-lived romance weren’t exactly picture-perfect, either).

The time was around 9am now. Harry had indeed won his battle a little after 7am and fallen back to sleep for the best part of two hours – waking up naturally was definitely preferred to jerking awake to the sound of angry rain making a racket against your window. Sprawled out in bed like a starfish, Harry glanced over at the window which was still receiving a thorough beating from the rain. Stretching his already outstretched arms slightly, he let out a yawn that was anything but graceful. Harry always spread out in his sleep – it was part of the reason he never slept well next to other people. The few times he and Ginny had shared a bed at the Burrow he had loathed it; ‘cuddling’ was not a concept he was either familiar with or happy with. He'd much rather claim the whole bed to himself, wrapped in his cocoon of his duvet. In all honesty, Harry Potter was practically terrified of close physical proximity with other people. This may be from having a total lack of it – growing up with the Dursleys never involved hugs, of course, and his friends rarely touched him very closely as they understood that it made him uncomfortable; if they did it was generally a fleeting hug. To give credit where it’s due – again, another muggle saying - they may not have known all the finer details regarding Harry, but everyone knew he wasn’t much of a hugger. Ron had struggled to understand this at first, but he was used to wrestling with his older brothers and received regular rib-cracking squeezes from his mother. Harry thought he would probably like hugs and such like if he were to get used to it - where he stood at that moment it was practically alien to him. On the other hand, it may be that he hasn’t received physical affection from the right person yet in order to truly appreciate it.

After the first few minutes of sleepy-eyed waking up, Harry Potter pulled himself from the depths of his duvet to start a new day. Wearing nothing but his Gryffindor red pyjama bottoms, he glanced over at his reflection in the mirror before picking up his glasses that lay carelessly beside his alarm clock and wand on his bedside table. After restoring his vision, he made his way over to the full-length mirror on the wall opposite the foot on his bed and observed himself. He was verging on being quite tall, around 5’11”. Atop of his head lay a bed of black curls, just as his father’s had once been. Harry was sure that he was the spitting image of James at the age of 20 (going by the few pictures he had of him, that is) though his hair was definitely more styled than his father’s once was. The sides were cut short, but on top lay his curls, swept forward over his forehead, covering the scar that made him supposedly special. The scar he loathed. This haircut had been another of Hermione’s brilliant ideas – he definitely appreciated this one. Harry also noticed that he had a light stubble kissing the sides of his face and slightly down his neck – that was nothing one of his wandless spells (that he had mastered) couldn’t fix. Focussing on the flow of his internal magic, Harry waved his right hand over the stubble, tilting his chin upward in the process. The familiar, tingling warmth graced his skin, leaving him smooth for a few more days. Pleased with his work, Harry returned his attention back to his reflection. Broad, bare, tanned shoulders lead down into slightly muscular, toned arms. Exercising wasn't a daily necessity for Harry, but it was a regular occurrence in his routine in an attempt to clear his clouded head. His broad chest fitted in perfectly with his strong arms, lightly scarred in places from past duels with death eaters. It was just as tanned as his arms and showed further muscle definition. Dark hairs grew down his stomach, entering his pyjama bottoms. His bare feet showed wiggling toes – Harry never could stay perfectly still. Giving in to the temptation of movement, Harry took himself to the bathroom for a shower before making his breakfast.

It wasn’t as though Harry was disgusted by his appearance – no, not at all. He could have been like Uncle Vernon, or one of the pig-like prophet photographers, or even reminiscent of the withering old wizards who jittered in joints like the Hog’s Head (not that Harry often visited those places anymore due to his Merlin-forsaken fame). No, he certainly didn’t dislike himself physically, but he wasn’t exactly fussed over how he looked either. He had scars, an ugly, strangely shaped one on his forehead, at that. He wasn’t as tall as a lot of other blokes – Ron definitely had the upper hand there. He didn’t feel the need to dress in a fancy way, either. To Harry, he was just Harry and deserved no special treatment or to be treated like some kind of bronzed God like the papers had suggested in the past.

This specific day’s outfit of choice consisted of his favourite pair of jeans and one of his many jumpers. The jeans were a faded shade of grey having been worn time after time. The jumper was a deep red (despite leaving Hogwarts three years ago, his ridiculously strong sense of Gryffindor pride certainly continued to shine through) with a small hole in the right sleeve from where Harry picked at it and played with it when he was nervous. He had made a habit of sticking his thumb through it, hence the lack of attempts to fix it – by hand or by magic. Harry wore no shoes whilst at home (he had always been averse to the idea of trapping his feet in such a way whilst in his own space. Not for a snobbish ‘don’t get your mud on my carpet’ reason, just because he found it comfortable and enjoyed the different temperatures and textures the flooring of his flat provided the soles of his feet with. The hallway had wood, the bedrooms and living room were carpeted and the bathroom and kitchen had tile).

By half past nine in the morning, Harry James Potter stood in his kitchen, toes wiggling, placing bread in his toaster – once again, that’s another muggle invention; it cooks your slices of bread to make them crunchy so you can put various spreads and toppings on them, it’s quite delicious. Soon the kettle was boiled, the butter was spread and breakfast was served. From there his day may entail going for a jog, visiting his friends, practicing wandless magic (he had practically blown up his living room more than once whilst doing this before hastily repairing it with various spells). Harry occasionally drove his car (a rather frightful muggle method of transportation entailing a steering wheel, brakes, and seatbelts) to a secluded spot in the country to practice flying. However, on this specific day in late July, Harry's day was much less exciting: he was going food shopping in his local muggle supermarket: Sainsburys. This was a mundane task, to say the least, but it is necessary. 

A little before midday a slightly drenched Harry Potter returned with two bags of shopping, containing tea bags, eggs, bread and a variety of other dull food-related items. He had also purchased a bottle of his favourite apple scented shampoo as his current one had almost run out – who knew growing up would be so dull? Shutting his door, closing out the rest of the complex of flats, he placed both bags on the floor and waved his hand. Immediately every single item he had just bought began soaring through the air – at a speed that is probably deemed impressive for a loaf of bread or a carton of milk – towards their rightful places in the kitchen. This was easily one of Harry’s favourite wandless spells he had taught himself as it was personalised to his own preferences as well as to the layout of his own home - plus the fact no one likes putting away their shopping. Folding the bags that had previously contained these items, he placed them back where by the door below a shelf of his favourite wizarding books. These shelves contained many of his old schoolbooks – including ‘Holidays with Hags' and ‘Magical Me' by Gilderoy Lockheart; Harry still felt subtle pangs of guilt when he remembered the state of the man's memory now - or the current lack of it. Standing proudly beside these books was a copy of ‘Quidditch Through the Ages’ by Kennilworthy Whisp and a copy of ‘Hogwarts: A History’ by Bathilda Bagshot that Hermione had bought him two Christmases ago (Harry had never read it, of course, even in adulthood he still outright refused).

Following his flying food through his flat, Harry walked into his kitchen and put the kettle on to boil. Cupboards opened and closed around him as tins and packets travelled to their rightful places. The crescendo of rumbling from the kettle filled the raven-haired young man’s ears. Harry favoured his tea with little milk and two sugars, apparently the same way his father used to. Harry remembered all too well the morning Sirius asked him how he took his tea back at Grimmauld Place during the summer before his passing. Sirius had gasped, clapped a hand over his mouth dramatically and practically cheered in celebration. He may have been a fully grown adult, but his personality seemed to have never left his Hogwarts dormitory.

“Just like James! Merlin’s beard, Harry. You may as well be the same person.” Sirius had grinned as he spoke, though behind his eyes Harry thought he saw a hint of reminiscence which may have spiralled into sadness if it wasn’t quickly contained. “Just wait until I tell Remus.” Sirius sighed fondly at the thought of the other man’s reaction – or was it just at the thought of the other man in general? Harry had always been slightly taken aback by the closeness of his godfather and former professor’s relationship. Harry could have sworn he’d seen Sirius wink at Remus more than once – and not in the way he would at Harry when he passed him the carrots over dinner. Harry had always hoped that they were lovers as both of them had gone through hell in their lives and deserved their own piece of heaven. Of course, Remus had gone on to have Teddy with Nymphadora Tonks, but that doesn’t mean that he hadn’t had feelings for Sirius prior to this.

At this very moment, as Harry stared into his empty mug, waiting for the familiar click of the kettle finally boiling, he slammed headfirst into a brick wall of realisation that he truly missed Sirius, Remus, Tonks, Mad-Eye, Dumbledore and everyone else he had lost. They had all died for him. His parents, Sirius, Remus, even Peter-bastard-Pettigrew. The familiar emptiness greeted Harry as an old friend as it pumped through his veins and into his heart, his chest squeezing his lungs in a merciless grip as his eyes began to sting as though tiny hot knives were jabbing them.

All of a sudden, completely drawing Harry out of this state and into one of blatant confusion, two different sounds filled the flat. One expected, another not so much.

Whoosh!

Click!

Coming from the fireplace, the sound of flames springing to life followed by the crackling sound of fire filled the living room. The kettle had also boiled, but no tea was going to be made at this moment in time. A third sound penetrated Harry’s ears, and Merlin, it was always a welcome one – albeit feared as well.

“Potter! Are you home?” anyone who had attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry would obey the woman from whom this question came without a second thought. The familiar Scottish accent filled Harry’s ears and he immediately stiffened in surprise, multiple questions springing to mind.

"Minerva?" Harry called. It was stupid to even check, of course it was her. Not just any random woman could make Harry immediately feel like he was twelve again, caught sneaking through the school after hours. But why had Hogwarts’ headmistress Minerva McGonagall floo’d to Harry’s humble home at midday on a Sunday? Something must have happened.

“Yes, Potter. I need to speak to you.” She replied, her voice firm yet containing a hint of affection. Harry made his way out of the kitchen faster than he had once fled from the room of requirement back in his sixth year in an attempt to avoid being caught by the delightful Dolores Umbridge.

"Minnie – are you okay? Is everything at Hogwarts alright?" Harry's questions slipped out of his mouth like water slips through your fingers: unstoppable. McGonagall made an approving sound at the use of her nickname, though you'd never have guessed she'd be one to approve of such a title for herself. However, the main reason she smiled at Harry's use of this name is that it was what James Potter would always turn to in an attempt to get out of her detentions. It always failed, but he and Sirius would always try their luck. Indeed, like it did so many other people, James and his son's resemblance made Minerva McGonagall practically glow at the thought of how proud Harry would have made his father.

"I am very well, thank you, Harry. And Hogwarts is perfectly fine, thank you. With me watching over it, it will only ever be just that." Harry believed that; the woman was a bloody machine, as the muggles occasionally say. “Term ended on this Friday just gone, and we are in fact a professor short.” Harry was unsure of why she was telling him this, but his queries were soon answered. “Samuel Sunderheart, our defence against the dark arts professor of the past three years, has resigned and will therefore not be returning at the start of next year. His reasoning was along the lines of wishing to pursue a career as an author.” Her tone was evidently disapproving, and Harry could tell she wasn’t done yet. What she went on to say caught Harry completely off guard. “Happy early birthday, Harry. I am aware that it is on Tuesday.” Harry instantly beamed, Samuel Sunder-something briefly forgotten.

“Thank you, Professor! I mean – Minerva.” Harry grinned, forgetting he wasn't fifteen and sat in transfiguration for a brief moment. "Now, what is this about the defence post you want to tell me?" There was a brief pause, followed by the clearing of her throat.

“I am offering it to you, Potter. The availability will be announced in the Daily Prophet on Wednesday of next week if you do not take it – the papers do not yet know that you have been offered the post but it is likely to be discovered. I am willing to give you it without an interview as I know you are one of the most experienced young men in defence against the dark arts I could ever find – consider that an early birthday present” She paused briefly as Harry spluttered in response. “Before you attempt to interrupt me once more, Potter, I want you to know that I will be very firm when reminding the students that you are as normal as any other professor and that your fame should not interfere in the classroom. I know that you need something like this, Harry. You thrive off having something to work at and you would make an excellent addition to the staff table, I must say.”

Indeed, Harry had attempted to interrupt her speech multiple times so he could exclaim multiple things along the lines of ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘why’. But, at this point, he was left completely dumbfounded.

“You do not need to make your decision instantly, Potter. I’ll give you today and tomorrow, so please let me know by Monday night. Just floo to my office at Hogwarts - the whole way, please. I’d like to see you properly as opposed to just my head sticking out of your fireplace or yours out of mine. Take care, Potter. I’ll see you soon.” Before Harry could even think to speak, her head had vanished and the fireplace now consisted of just dwindling embers. After taking a few moments to absorb what had just been stated, he slowly stood from the kneeling position he didn’t realise he had fallen into amid the excitement and shock of McGonagall’s appearance. Re-entering the kitchen to an empty mug and a kettle that needed to be boiled again, Harry stared out of the window into the seemingly everlasting pouring rain.

She was right, Harry did thrive when he had something to work on. Aside from his arrangements with friends and family, Harry did little else other than amuse himself. He had no real hobbies and would eventually need to get back out into the wizarding world, so why not bulldoze into it by taking a job that would earn him a place on the front page for weeks? He had said it himself many times: Hogwarts is his home. This job was perfect for Harry and exactly what he needed, but the list of negatives surely outweighed the positives. Starstruck kids, not seeing Teddy as much, whatever the hell the papers would make of the situation… Harry let out a long, slow sigh. He knew what he needed to do, no matter how taxing it may be to initiate; he would floo to Hogwarts that very evening to accept the position of defence against the dark arts professor.

Harry boiled the kettle again and was soon sat on his sofa thinking the situation through with a mug of tea in his lightly calloused hands. He knew it was for the best. Besides, what would a Gryffindor be without a burning desire to take on new challenges that could easily backfire? Harry released yet another sigh.

This was required, but not necessarily fully appreciated.