In a comfortable cottage on the outskirts of Godric's Hollow, a large, furry dog lay sleeping in front of the fireplace. His paws moved rhythmically, giving the impression that he was dreaming of chasing rabbits. The room, while modestly furnished, exuded a homey and welcoming feeling with its overstuffed, if a bit worn, couches and handmade tables. Along the mantle piece sat magical photos of friends, ordinarily throwing snowballs or flying, now slumbering until the dawn. Next to the photographs were spell books and decks of Exploding Snap cards. Cloaks showing signs of hex marks were tossed haphazardly across the armchair in the corner. A racing broom was mounted on the wall, encased in glass to protect it from dust.
Suddenly, the fire, which had only been embers moments before, roared to life and an angry voice issued from within. Snoring lightly, the dog rolled over onto his other side and laid a paw across his ears, as if to silence the din.
A man in tattered robes with tired hazel eyes and disheveled hair the color of silvery wheat came into the room with a disgruntled look on his face. "A brilliant start to my summer holiday, Padfoot," poking the dog in the ribs with his toe. "Will you PLEASE answer the fire? It's Harry, for god's sake."
With a pop, the dog was gone, replaced by a tall man with dark brown hair, piercing blue eyes and an apologetic grin. "Sorry about that, Moony," he said to his friend Remus, who by now had wandered into the kitchen to start the kettle for tea. Rubbing his eyes, he glanced at the clock and, shaking his head, answered Harry's third bellow.
"Harry? What's wrong? Is there trouble?"
"No, Sirius," Harry said, pacing in front of the fire, "I have a question for you."
Sirius blinked at the fire. "Harry, it's one o'clock in the morning! Can't this wait until, oh, say…8:00AM? I was going to come into London to see you!"
"No, Sirius, it can't wait." Harry paused. Professor McGonagall asked him not to tell Sirius she'd shared his news about the Ministry, but Harry decided the time had come for the truth. "I received a letter from Professor McGonagall this evening."
There was a moment of silence, then the sound of a throat being cleared. "Oh…did you really? Imagine that," Sirius said, with a shade of trepidation in his voice.
Harry frowned. "Yes, I did, Sirius, and let me be the first to congratulate you on your new position within the Ministry."
More silence, then a muttered curse. "Harry, I'm sorry about that. I got the news this afternoon as you were traveling into the city for your lecture. I didn't want to distract you with the news before then. Honestly, I asked her not to tell you about it. Why would she do that?"
"You know damn good and well why she would, Sirius," Harry said, flopping himself into the leather armchair by the hearth and glaring at his godfather through the flames. "Just like you know what else Professor McGonagall had to say to me. She offered me the job at Hogwarts." Harry noticed Remus Lupin had returned to the room and had handed Sirius a mug of tea before settling down beside him on the tatty couch. "You too, Remus. How could you keep this from me?"
"Harry," Remus began, "I realize it must have come as quite a shock, but when you think about it, the positions available are a perfect fit for you. You are simply brilliant when it comes to physics and astronomy - your marks and the comments we heard from Dr. Elden-Winters and his staff made that much as clear as a summer sky. And, even though it has been many years, you have flying in your blood. You can't deny that."
Harry grimaced. "Point taken, Remus. Muggle football and rugby just aren't the same." Through the flames, Harry could see his old Firebolt on the wall and the longing became palpable. "I miss flying so much I can almost taste it. But both of you know how I feel about the rest of the wizarding world. The things I've seen, the carnage! I've spent the last decade avoiding it as much as I could. If you and that mutt of a godfather of mine weren't so bloody persistent, I could have told you both to keep your news updates to yourself. Going back to Hogwarts..." He shuddered. "Going back to Hogwarts would bring all of it back and I'm not sure I want to deal with that yet."
Sirius spoke, his voice sounding weary. "Harry, we know how difficult those last days were on you. We lost loved ones that day as well. Please don't think we are belittling the experiences you had that day. However, it has been nine years." He sighed, taking a sip of his tea and, heaving another sigh, looked at Harry with eyes older than his years. "After I escaped from Azkaban, I had one thing to focus on and one thing only: seeing you safely through your adolescence. It was good that I had you to focus on, because if I had given pause over what had happened to me at that time in my life, I am certain I would not be sitting here tonight. It took years to gain the strength to deal with the memories of my imprisonment, the loss of your parents and, yes, the guilt I continued to feel about changing places as Secret-Keeper with Pettigrew." He glanced at Remus, who smiled at him in encouragement. "When the time came, with the help of good friends and family," he cast a glance at Harry, "I was able to come to terms with those years of despair. Oddly enough, rather than feeling drained, I felt relieved of an enormous weight.
"Harry, it has been nine years. The time for resolving these feelings has come for you now." He paused, looking into Harry's troubled gaze. "However, I think there is more to this than you are letting on. Am I right?"
Harry hesitated, then plunged ahead, "A part of dealing with that past is dealing with my memories of Ginny, Sirius."
Sirius smiled, "I thought so. Perhaps it is time to resolve that situation as well, Harry. I mean, you hardly dated while you were at Oxford…"
"I was studying, dammit," Harry interrupted, his expression becoming mulish. Sirius continued on as though he hadn't heard a word.
"Anyone you DID date always seemed to resemble Ginny, and what would happen? You would break things off with them for one pathetic reason or another. Why was that?"
Harry stammered, looking affronted. "It's clear she wants nothing to do with me, Sirius! There was nothing ambiguous about the way she said ‘No' to me that day and you know it." He stood and began pacing in front of the fire. "Come to think of it, it's clear the entire Weasley family wouldn't care if I ever darkened their doorstep again. After all, I wasn't invited to Ron and Hermione's wedding, and they were my best mates through school..."
"Harry, " Sirius interrupted, "it just seems that if you ARE considering the position at Hogwarts -- and I know you are, I can see it in your eyes -- then it would be a good time for you to resolve all of the issues that have fed your self-exile from our world, and that includes Ginny."
Harry paused. "I don't see why I can't deal with things one at a time, Sirius." He cradled his head in his hands, muttering, "It's not as though Ginny will be back at Hogwarts as well, you know." As he rubbed his hands over his weary eyes, there was another uncomfortable moment of silence. Sirius cast a look at Remus, who motioned towards the flames with his head. Harry glanced up and noticed the two of them looking very apprehensive. "What?" Remus cleared his throat and Sirius nervously sipped his tea. "What is it, Sirius? Remus?"
Remus took a deep breath. "Harry," he said, "Ginny is replacing Flitwick as Charms Professor effective 1 September."
For several seconds, the silence was deafening. Then Harry sat down onto the sofa with a thud, holding his sides and screaming with laughter. "Oh, that's hilarious, you two! Did you think of that all on your own? Because, if you did, that was bloody brilliant!"
Sirius and Remus simply stared as Harry slowly regained his composure. When they were certain they had his attention, they solemnly shook their heads.
Shell shocked, Harry rose to his feet. "Did you…just say that Ginny will be teaching at Hogwarts next term?" Both Remus and Sirius winced at the tone that erupted from Harry. "You lot are BARKING MAD, you KNOW that, don't you?"
"Now, Harry, listen," Sirius said, attempting to bring a voice of reason into the discussion.
Harry waved his hands furiously, shaking his head. "No, I will NOT listen, Sirius! You are MAD as a hatter, you are. It's either that or…" A sickening thought crossed his mind. "This whole thing is a set up, isn't it? That's EXACTLY what this is! Some ridiculous set up to get Ginny and I back on speaking terms. Don't have enough to do about your own love lives, or the stunning lack thereof, eh? Got to stick your nose into mine, is that it? Well, I will NOT stand for this, you two. If I had enough floo powder with me I would come through the fire and flog the both of you!"
Remus looked at Sirius. "He's got Lily's temper all right," Remus said, as they watched Harry snarling and spitting like a caged animal. With a sigh, both men walked to the fire place, grabbed handfuls of floo powder and bellowed, "Harry's Place", stumbling into Harry's living room within seconds and startling Harry out of his tirade.
"Well, if Mohammed can't come to the mountain," Sirius said, brushing off his robes and arching a brow towards his godson.
Harry blinked, then crossed his arms across his chest. "Well, at least you both have the goolies to come here and face me in person to defend all of your plans and schemes."
"We came through in order to knock some sense into you, you little whelp," Sirius said, his wits at an end. "Sit down, Harry, and I meanNOW!"
Harry stood his ground for a full five seconds until the look on Sirius' face forced him onto the couch.
"Listen," Sirius said, taking a seat next to his godson. "I know this is all very hard. Not only do you have the memories of the war, there's a matter of pride involved as well. I remember your words to Ginny that day - that ultimatum you threw down at her feet in the midst of all of the chaos. You told her that she had to leave her family, her home, everything she knew and loved for who knows how long, in order to remain a part of your life! She'd just lost one of her brothers, for Christ's sake! She was in no condition to make that kind of decision at that time."
"Harry," Remus said, placing a hand on Sirius' shoulder and joining him on the couch, "you left so suddenly after she gave you her answer, you didn't see what happened. It was dreadful, Harry. The hell she went through was absolutely dreadful. You abandoned not only her, but the entire Weasley family, who loved you as one of their own. They didn't lose one son, one brother that day," Remus said quietly, placing a hand on Harry's knee, "they lost two."
Harry sat, looking into the eyes of the two people he considered to be the closest thing to a family he had ever had, letting their words sink into him for several moments. Then, with a slight slump to his shoulders, he leaned into his godfather's embrace. Sirius held Harry as his shoulders shook with nine year's of regret. "I've missed them, Sirius, so very much. How can I go back to them after leaving them the way I did?"
"With a healthy dose of humility and the resolve to right the wrongs you have done them, Harry. It won't be easy, but I know - as do they - that you have the strength to do this," Remus said softly.
Harry let out an unsteady sigh, swiping at his eyes beneath slightly fogged lenses. He gazed at both men and tilted a half smile. "I still think this whole thing was a set up, you know."
Remus smiled and ruffled Harry's hair. "Honestly, we didn't hear about Ginny's position until about an hour before you contacted us. Believe me, Sirius was trying to figure out a way to avoid meeting up with you in London!"
"I was not," Sirius said. "I just figured we would need to bring along some back up once you found out about all of this." Harry punched him on the arm. "Seriously," he continued, "I choose to think on all of this as fate, Harry. All of the pieces coming together as they did, when they did. As they say in the bible, for everything there is a season, my boy. The time has, indeed, come to reconcile the past and start the future. The only one who can do it is you."
Recognizing defeat when he saw it, Harry got up from the chair and went into the kitchen for a bottle of Jameson's. "If I had it, I would bring out the Ogden's."
Sirius poured three glasses and, handing one to his godson and the other to his dearest friend, he raised his glass and said, "To Hogwarts' newest Professor and Master of Flight - Harry Potter!"