Disclaimer: Harry Potter and company do not belong to me and I am making no money off of this fic. I promise. Cross my heart and hope to die.
Author's Notes: This is my first Harry Potter fic...be gentle; it's my first time. I just started reading the series, couldn't put it down, in fact. I simply fell in love with J.K. Rowling's world. I hope this story lives up to it.
Dedication: To my Ravenclaw brother, Hufflepuff mother, fellow Gryffindor friends and Slytherin cousin. Thank you for being "Pot-heads" with me. And to Alan-san, for declaring "holy mother of god that's a huge book" in front of my entire Japanese class while I was reading "Goblet of Fire", thus alerting them to the fact that a 21 year old English major is totally hooked on Harry Potter.
An Organ of Fire
by Kristen Elizabeth
The owl swooped through the open cottage window and landed with an impressive show of wings on the windowsill. It cooed once and then twice, trying to alert the cottage's only occupant as to its presence and the piece of parchment tied to its leg.
But the man seated at the tiny table, watching the cheerful fire he had conjured up only minutes earlier, did not look up at the owl. "You can go back to your owner," he said in a low voice. "I do not wish to hear from anyone."
Tilting its head to the side, the owl continued to watch the man, but made no motion to fly off into the night sky.
"Did you hear me?" The man finally swung his head over to see the bird on his windowsill. "I said..." He trailed off. "Hedwig?"
The stark white owl cooed in response. Spreading her wings, she took off and flew the short distance to the man's shoulder. Once she landed, she nipped the man's ear affectionately and lifted the leg onto which the parchment paper was tied.
"I was serious," the man said, almost regretfully. "Go back to whoever sent you, Hedwig."
She bleated loudly. Her claws dug into his shoulder, refusing to let go.
He sighed in defeat. With shaky fingers, he untied the letter from the owl's leg and spread it open. After a moment, he began to read.
Dear Mr. Potter,
We at Hogwarts find ourselves in a bit of a quandary. As the new school year approaches, we are sad to lose, yet again, our current professor in the subject of Defense Against the Dark Arts. Having the experience in this field that we know you do, we wish to extend you a heartfelt invitation to return to England and take over this position. We can discuss such things as salary and contracts upon your return. Do please consider our offer. There is a great deal of good to be done.
Deputy Headmistress and Professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
PS: It is time to come home, Harry.
There was a long moment wherein only the crackle of the fire could be heard throughout the cottage. Hedwig preened her feathers as her former owner read and re-read the letter. After she had given him sufficient time, the owl lifted her head and looked at him expectantly.
"I can't go back there," Harry told her flatly. "It's been too long."
Hedwig continued to stare at him, without blinking.
"I left because I didn't want this, you know." He stood up and began pacing across the floor in front of the hearth. "Don't you understand? I left all of this behind."
The owl tipped her head to the side again, studying him with beady eyes.
"Was that wrong of me, Hedwig? Thoughtless? Selfish?" Harry closed his eyes for a minute. "If I go back, I'll just muck up their lives." Hedwig cooed, reassuringly. Suddenly, he smiled. It was the first time he had done so in years. He realized that he had made up his mind about this day a long time ago. "I expect they'll want an answer straight away?" The owl stepped off his shoulder and swooped over to his long forgotten writing desk.
He walked to it and sat down. The quill was dusty and the ink needed a bit of water, but within a few minutes, he had begun to write.
Dear Professor McGonagall,
Ten years isn't so terribly long unless you look back on it with regret. That being said, I take into consideration every year and every lamentation when I say, with as little hesitancy as possible, that I wish to accept the offered position at Hogwarts. I will arrive sometime next week to make the necessary arrangements.
PS: Please do not tell anyone that I am coming. Most especially Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Weasley.
After the ink dried, Harry carefully secured the letter to Hedwig's leg and held out his hand for her to step upon. He crossed back to the window and looked up at the star-sprinkled sky. If Hedwig flew all night, she should reach Hogwarts by their nightfall. "I'll see you soon," he told his old friend. She let out a cry and flew off, a spot of white against the formidable darkness, leaving Harry no time to regret his decision.
All he could do was begin to pack.
"Professor? Professor?" The words pierced through the light fog around the slender woman's dozing mind. "Professor?" She squeezed her eyes shut, in a fruitless attempt to stay within her dreams.
She jolted awake. "What? What's wrong?"
Rubeus Hagrid loomed over her work table, a look that was equal parts concern and exasperation on his rugged, bearded features. "Pleasant nap there, Professor?"
Hermione rubbed the sleep out of her eyes. "I didn't mean to doze off....I suppose you're going to lecture me on late nights and early mornings, Hagrid?"
"No such lecture," he promised. "Just a wee message from Professor McGonagall."
"A message? What does she want?"
Hagrid took a deep breath. "Yer might want to be sittin' fer this one."
She gave him a half-smile. "I am sitting down."
"Well then...I best be sittin' down." With a great creak from the aged wood, he sat down next to her. They were alone in the library; summer at Hogwarts was a quiet and often lonely time of year. Still, it afforded Hermione, the notorious bookworm, a chance to commune in peace with the literature of the greatest school of magic in the world.
"Go on, Hagrid."
After another deep breath, he let the news come out. "I shouldn't be tellin' yer as much as I am, mind yer. I was only supposed to tell yer that ye'll be needin' ter fetch the new Defense professor from 'ogsmeade today." He paused and looked blankly at the books surrounding them.
"But..." she prompted.
"But..." He scratched his beard. "I don't think it'd be fair ter send yer there not knowing who ye'll be fetchin' afore'and."
Hermione's smooth forehead crinkled in puzzlement. "The new professor won't be arriving on the Express?"
"No. Not this one." Hagrid's hands dropped to his lap. "Professor..." He switched back to a less formal tone. "Er...'ermione...it's 'arry."
Her throat closed up. A sudden chill swept the room though no door or window was open. At the mere sound of his name, Hermione's entire body became quite stiff. "Harry," she repeated in a near whisper. "Harry's....coming back?"
Hagrid watched her reactions closely, afraid of what the news might do to her. After all she had been through in the past year, the last thing he wanted to see was her in anymore agony or heartache. He knew, all too well, what she had suffered when Harry Potter had disappeared from their lives ten years earlier.
How would she take his sudden return to the world?
"Does he know, Hagrid? Has he been told about..."
"No," Hagrid replied quickly. "As fer as I know, he don't."
Hermione's hands trembled. She tucked them into her dark blue robes for warmth. But they were not shaking from cold. "I suppose it'll be up to me to tell him then. In person."
"I'm thinkin' it might be best thet way."
She seemed to be recovering a bit. But Hagrid didn't have to have known her for as long as he had to recognize that she was far from fine. She had been far from fine for far too long, in his opinion. Hermione cleared her throat. "This afternoon, you said? In Hogsmeade?"
"Aye. Should be Appartin' in 'round three or so, Professor McGonagall suspects." Hagrid watched her for another second. "Yer sure yer up ter it?"
"I'm up to it," she promised. Her expression darkened. "Of course....that's only one of the things I'll have to tell him if he's going to be living and working here. With us."
Hagrid nodded. "Secret's been kept long enough. Time fer the truth."
Hermione stood up, stretched delicately and began to close up her books. "I had better hurry if I'm to make it there by three." She gathered up her work. "Hagrid, will you keep an eye on..."
"Surely," he agreed easily. Before she could walk away, he caught her wrist in a gentle grip. "It's fine if yer not all righ' with all er this. Yer don't have ter be playin' the part fer me, 'ermione."
She gave him a weak smile. "Of course I'm all right with all of this. Harry Potter is returning to Hogwarts. We should all be happy. If you'll excuse me, Hagrid." She eased out his grip. "I have something to do before I leave for Hogsmeade."
Hagrid's sad eyes followed her out of the library. "Yer may be all right on the outside, missy. But on the inside...yer still a bloody wreck."
A cold wind coming off the water blew Hermione's hair around her face. She made no attempt to keep it in check, having foregone with her usual severe bun. She never wore her hair up when she went to visit him; he had liked it down, bushy and untamed. Funny since at one time, he had teased her for its wildness.
As she approached the edge of the cliff, she could hear the lake churning and crashing below. Behind her, the gothic grandness of Hogwarts towered, a comforting, if somewhat intimidating presence. She almost resented its intrusion. At the moment, she wished to be alone with her husband.
The lone grave sat at the spot where the green grass gave way to gray rock. The marble marker was simple and classically cut, bearing only a name and two dates. Hermione knelt on the cold grass in front of the grave. With a small wave of her ever present wand, a single red rose materialized on the grave's gentle slope.
"Harry is coming back." The wind threatened to carry her voice away. She spoke louder, as though the grave's occupant could hear her. "He is going to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts." She closed her eyes. "I suppose he's the most qualified person in the world to teach it."
The grave was silent, but comforting.
Hermione let out a pent-up breath. "I'm going to tell him, Ron. I know he must know about us....although I doubt he knows that you're....that you're not here anymore." A single tear danced down her cheek. "But I'm going to tell him about...everything. He has a right to know. They both do." She opened her eyes again. "Do you think that's the right thing to do, Ron?"
Again there was reassuring silence.
"I miss you so much," she whispered. "I wish you were right here. We'd be a team again. The Three Musketeers. Or Stooges, depending upon how you look at it." Hermione smiled and touched her husband's grave lovingly. "I'm going to go now." She stood up and looked at the stormy sky. "Wish me luck."
The town of Hogsmeade wasn't only unique in that it was the only one in England entirely inhabited by wizards and witches. After Harry had Apparated into the main square and begun re-familiarizing himself with the place in which he had spent so many happy, youthful moments, he was amused to realize that it was the only place in all the places he had been in ten years where you could find Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes.
Honeydukes Sweetshop had not changed a bit in all the time Harry had been away, except that now, amongst all the boxes of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans and the Chocolate Frogs, there were mounds of tempting-looking candies bearing the Weasley name. However, Harry thought as he fingered a Ton-Tongue Toffee, one would have to be crazy to buy the treats for themselves if they knew the candies' true nature beforehand.
And he should know. Unbeknownst to most people, Harry had been a silent partner in company ever since his days at Hogwarts. Ever since he had won the Triwizard Tournament and given the thousand Galleon prize to the Weasley twins to start their business. No one knew he had done that. Not even the twins' brother, his oldest friend, Ron.
Harry's hand involuntarily closed around a Chocolate Frog package. The thought of Ron Weasley still had a powerful, dangerous effect on him. Instantly, he chastised himself and released the package from his tight grip. Nothing that had happened in the ten years since they had parted ways at Hogwarts graduation had been Ron's fault. He had left the school, left the community, left the country...left her, and Ron had been the one to stay behind.
No, all of Harry's regrets were his own cross to bear. He could not blame Ron for being happy. Happy with her. When the twins had let it slip that their brother had gotten married, it was just one more lamentation onto the pile that had started to accumulate on the day he left for points unknown. That was the last piece of news he had let slip through about her and Ron. Anything else, he had decided, would be too much to bear.
"So why," he asked himself softly. "Are you here at all?"
A sudden tap on his shoulder pulled him out of his reverie. A young girl, perhaps no more older than a fourth year student at Hogwarts, peered up at him with blatant wonder and curiosity on her pretty features. "Excuse me, sir," she addressed him. "But are you...Harry Potter?"
Memory upon memory came flooding back to him, a wave of bittersweet nostalgia. How long had he gone without being recognized? He had moved about the Muggle world for ten years with the anonymity of a house fly, but now, back in the wizard world, he was once again Harry Potter. The Boy Who Lived.
Before he could answer the young girl, someone grabbed his arm. An older man, as old as his parents would have been had they lived. "Gizzard's beard...you *are* Harry Potter!" A broad smile appeared on his face. "Everyone!" he called out. "Look! It's Harry Potter!"
A buzz sprung up around the store. He was surrounded by whispers and stares, pointing fingers and curious stares. The walls were closing in again. Harry Potter was trapped by the simple act of being Harry Potter.
"....see, Mummy? It's him!"
"It's been years, simply years..."
"...looks a good bit older, don't he? Still the same Harry...."
"Why do you suppose he's come back? It's not anything to do with You-Know..."
"....heard he's been asked to teach at the school. Charms, I think. Or maybe Potions."
"But is it really him? I can't see his scar..."
"....is it truly..."
"Can it really be...."
The last voice, so precise and yet so sweet, was achingly familiar. Harry slowly turned around to see its owner as she made her way through the now-quiet crowd. Hermione Granger....Hermione Weasley, he corrected himself, stopped just in front of him. Her arms were folded lightly across the bright blue cotton of her robes. Besides the tightness of her lips, ten years had been nothing but good to her.
Swallowing back a thick lump that suddenly formed in his throat, he managed to get out her name. "Hermione."
Her eyes were strangely haunted. So large, but so very nearly empty. She spoke again, in a voice he had never heard. "Welcome home, Harry."
To Be Continued