Harry paced the study, stopping every thirty seconds or so to glance at the clock which was moving painfully slowly.
“I can’t stand it any longer!” he thought to himself as the second hand ticked dully forwards, providing the only sound in the room other than that of his boots making contact with the hard stone floor. He wondered for perhaps the hundredth time that day why he was doing this. It was not necessarily something he had ever planned to do and from the surprise that had greeted his announcement in July no one else had either – Ginny had never considered the possibility and she was the person who was supposed to know him best in all the world. And yet, here he was.
A knock at the door interrupted his thoughts and a familiar voice outside called out
Panicking he looked around for some sort of escape route from a conversation he did not want. He finally found one in the form of a piece of shimmering material hanging from the cloak stand. Using his Auror training he managed to silently walk over to the cloak stand and grab his invisibility cloak which he then slipped over himself. The last thing he wanted right now was an interrogation. The knock at the door came again and this time it was followed shortly by a creak as the voice said:
“I’m coming in.”
He held his breath as Hermione Granger-Weasley entered the room – he was determined not to be heard. He couldn’t deal with her right now. He followed her movements as she entered the study and looked around for him. She passed dangerously close to him as she peered her head into the storeroom attached to the study and had it not been for the squawk of a bird from outside then she would have heard him take a tiny step back and brush against the bookshelf he was standing next to.
“Harry, where are you? I know you’re in here because I haven’t been able to find you anywhere else. Just take off that stupid cloak so I can see you. I really thought we should talk about today – just so you’re prepared. I have some experience of what this is like remember; I can probably give you loads of advice. I know this isn’t something you thought you would ever be doing but I know you’ll be great. You wouldn’t be here if you couldn’t handle it.”
There was a moment's pause.
Harry remained obstinately silent. Eventually she turned to go.
“Fine, but you’re being really stupid – there are only thirty of them for goodness sake and they’re hardly Death Eaters”
Then she turned and stormed out closing the door with a little more force than was strictly necessary. Harry stood for a minute, not daring to move in case she was waiting just outside for a chance to pounce. Eventually when he thought it was safe he slipped the cloak off his shoulders and hung it back on the rack At times like these, Harry was most appreciative for the ability to be invisible. He couldn’t deal with the conversation she wanted – he was too worried that if he opened his mouth then he would be sick and rather than try and explain that to her it was easier to just disappear. Hermione was one of his best friends and he would never usually avoid an opportunity to talk to her but today was different. He needed to prepare for today alone.
He moved over to his desk and sat for a while lost in his own thoughts. Glancing at the clock he saw he still had half an hour to go. He couldn’t remember a time when he felt this nervous and there had been plenty of times in his life when he had been nervous. Harry sighed as he thought back to the sickening waits before each of the tri-wizard tasks, not to mention the nerves he had felt when trying to ask Cho to the Yule Ball, and those he felt before every Quidditch game. He thought back to the day of his engagement – when he had barely been able to eat and he hadn’t been able to stop his hands shaking due to nerves. Ginny had been so concerned that she had insisted they cut the date short and go home so Harry could go to bed. His proposal to her from his bed hadn’t been nearly as romantic as the one he had planned and the twins had almost wet themselves laughing when they heard that it was Ginny that had been down on her knees so she was level with him lying in bed.
However, none of those nerves compared to how he felt now. Harry was strange in so many ways. He had never once felt like this in the Horcrux hunt and even before the final confrontation he had not allowed himself to feel nervous. Ginny always laughed about this – she said it was ridiculous that a man who ended up ill just trying to propose could face hoards of Death Eaters without batting an eyelid. Facing Death Eaters was different, he thought, a least he knew what he was facing then, his could let his practical side take over. He could deal with practical things but give him anything mushy and he fell to pieces.
What he was facing today wasn’t mushy, he supposed, just different. That was what was scaring him. He had only done anything like this once before and that was years ago, while he was a student. That seemed like a lifetime ago now and he had only coped then with the help of his friends. This, he was having to do alone. Though, he thought to himself, that was by his own choice. Hermione had been here only a few minutes before prepared to offer him as much help as he needed but somehow he just couldn’t bring himself to accept it. He knew what she would say anyway. He had been getting the same speech for weeks now, ever since he expressed the doubts he had about what he was about to do:
“You are more than qualified to do this Harry. They wouldn’t have asked if they didn’t think you were capable. I mean you are Harry Potter, who could be more suited to this job than you?”
Harry sighed. He could think of loads of people who would be better at this than him and yet somehow, he was the one that had ended up sitting here with only twenty minutes to go before he had to begin.
He paused for a minute and sat back in his chair looking around the room. The room was so familiar and he thought back to the countless times he had sat in here over the years. Each time it had looked totally different and this time was no exception. The walls were adorned with medals and awards – all presented to him for bravery both during the war and afterwards. If only he could find some of that bravery now. He kept the awards on display because hiding them seemed to belittle how important the war was and each one reminded him of a time when he had lost or almost lost someone he loved. His eyes rested on one final award newly framed and presented to him only seven months ago when he had been officially retired from Auror service.
Looking at the award brought a huge wave of sadness over him. It had been his lifetime dream to be an Auror and after the war he had passed the training with flying colours and gone on to give ten years of service to the ministry. During that time he had been responsible for capturing scores of the remaining Death Eaters and preventing many deaths of those who fought for freedom in the war.
His expected to spend his life as an Auror – he had married Ginny when he was 25 and they had two children, Sirius and Molly, both named after two people who had cared for Harry like a son and sacrificed their lives for him. Harry could still vividly remember Ginny’s tears when he suggested naming their daughter after the mother she had loved so much. Molly’s death had been such a shock to them and the Weasley family had never quite recovered. Even now, no family occasion ever seemed quite complete without Molly standing over the fire cooking them all a feast and complaining about Bill’s hair or Charlie’s dangerous career. Arthur was a shadow of his former self and even though he still smiled when he saw Harry and Ginny, it was a long time since Harry had seen that smile extend to his eyes. They had had the life sucked out of them the day he had received news that The Burrow had been attacked while he was away on a mission for the order. Harry had been with him and he had witnessed Arthur’s body collapse in shock. He had supported him as together they made their way to the Burrow to survey the damage. It had been completely destroyed, once the Death Eaters had broken through the wards protecting The Burrow it seemed they had no mercy. The whole place had been torched and Molly’s body, when they found it, showed very visible signs of torture. Molly had held the Weasley family together and throughout the war whenever he was struggling, Harry knew he could go there and she would be there, sometimes to talk and sometimes just to provide company for him as he tried to accept the responsibility of what he had to do.
Harry had taken the responsibility of tracking down the rest of the family and telling them the news. As one of the leading members of the Order he was one of the few to know where they all were and what operations they were working on. The reactions he had witnessed from each had tortured him, because deep down, he knew that it was his association with the Weasleys that had led to Molly’s death. He was unable to get in contact with all the Weasley brothers before the funeral as they were all in hiding and difficult to locate even with Harry’s knowledge of their missions. He finally located Charlie, attempting to train a colony of dragons, four months after her death. When Charlie heard how long it had been since she died he was livid – but Harry knew from experience that he was using his anger to cover up the pain and agony he was feeling inside. At last, when everyone knew, there had been a memorial service for Molly’s faithful sons to say goodbye. Harry had seen little of Charlie or Bill since that day, both having thrown themselves into their jobs, trying as hard as possible to forget. He knew that they both secretly blamed him, they had never really known him because by the time he met the family they had both already left to live their adult lives. All they knew was that he was dangerous and that his mother’s fondness of him had cost her, her life.
Harry tried to stop thinking of Molly as every time he did felt guilt so strong that it overwhelmed him. Sometimes he could not bear to look at Ginny as it brought back too many memories of the pain he caused. When he couldn’t meet her eyes she knew what he was thinking and no matter how many times she told him that no one blamed him, he knew that it was his fault.
Harry suddenly turned his thoughts to earlier that year when an operation to arrest three of the last known Death Eaters, had gone wrong and Harry had been left injured. He woke up in St Mungo's partially blind in one eye and missing two fingers. He’d had poor sight since birth and it had caused some problems over the years but they could be fixed by glasses. However, the curse that damaged his eyes had been so bad that the best the Healers could do was restore sight in one eye and give him partial sight in the other. The curse had been so strong that he was very lucky to have retained any sight at all. The fingers had been burnt off and the tissue was dead so no Healer could ever grow them back. Harry remembered the feelings of despair he felt whilst lying in that bed for the two months it took him to recover. He couldn’t get over the fact that though he had survived a war and confrontation with Voldemort, it only took a hex from a desperate Death Eater to render him unfit.
Though he had been expecting it, the visit from the head of the Auror service that confirmed he was being retired from active service was a crushing blow. He was given an award for service to the ministry and a ceremony which praised him for his dedication and lamented his short career. After that he was an Auror no longer.
So, at thirty-one, Harry Potter was forced to find a new career. He was offered a desk job at the ministry but the thought of having to sit at a desk filling in paper work every day made him ill. His wand hand was still in tact and so he was in a position to do something practical, however his damaged eye put him out of the running for most jobs. Besides, he was so weak for a few months that Ginny refused to even let him out of the house. During his months of convalescence his eyesight gradually began to get better and now, with very strong prescription glasses he could to see almost normally with only a slight blurriness if he read or tried to focus for too long. He would never be declared fit for service though and he had to face the fact that he needed to find something to do with his life.
When he had been contacted with the offer of the job he was preparing to start now he had been very unsure. He wasn’t sure how qualified he was for this particular task but he was assured that he would be fine. Eventually he said yes. He couldn’t explain why but something seemed right about it and he was glad to be returning somewhere he had spent so much happy time.
To say his family had been shocked was an understatement. He didn’t tell anyone of the offer until he decided to accept it because he wanted to make the decision himself and not be influenced by anyone else. His family’s shock worried him at first as he took it to mean they didn’t think he was capable but once they adjusted to the idea they assured him that it was just unexpected but they knew he could do it.
Now with only five minutes to go before he was due to start he wasn’t so sure. He continued to look around the office. His eyes passed over various pieces of equipment from his Auror days that he thought may come in useful and finally rested on a picture of his family, taken last summer at the annual Weasley barbeque. He laughed suddenly, his `family` included all the Weasleys and their various wives and children, Remus Lupin and Tonks with their child and his own children. It was so strange to think that as a child he didn’t have enough pieces of family to form a whole one but now he had so many they could barely fit on one photo.
Next to the big family photo was a picture of him and Ginny on their wedding day, both looking so happy and so in love. Then there was a picture of him in smart dress robes receiving an Order of Merlin first class and looking very stern. Finally there was a picture taken a few weeks ago. Harry was out in the garden on all fours playing some sort of game with three-year-old Sirius while Ginny and baby Molly looked on laughing. He smiled as he watched the figures in the photo and thought how much support and love his family had given him over the years. He adored his two children and their young enthusiasm had helped him come through his dark period at the beginning of the year.
He was startled from his thoughts by a sudden noise outside his door that sounding like a herd of elephants had just been released outside. He looked at the clock yet again,
“Well,” he thought to himself, “I suppose this is it.”
Desperately trying to find some last bit of courage, he opened a door that led through to another room and swept through it, coming to a halt in front of thirty staring faces:
“Good morning, I am Professor Potter and I will be your Defence Against the Dark Arts professor whilst you are at Hogwarts.”