Disclaimer: Ok, I'm just going to have to accept it: I don't own this.
A/N: Thanks for the reviews. At the time of writing the number is currently 116! Thanks to you all. You can (hopefully) expect more regular updates and longer chapters from now on. Sorry that I haven't been able to get this to you sooner...
A Rejected Soul
The Weasley household was in uproar. Ginny had decided to spend the night there, rather than risk it on her own. It wasn't that she was particularly frightened for herself, she had risked her life many times in the War against Voldemort, but she felt that she and especially the children needed the support of her family at this time. She felt safe at the Burrow, and was pleased that she had come.
She did, however, regret letting Ron, who had been granted leave to return to the Burrow providing he made sure that Ginny's security was water tight, explain the events of the day to her mother. He had exaggerated what the threat to her safety had been, and, as a result, her mother was continuing to fuss over her, checking her for any possible jinxes or subtle hexes that could have been placed on her, busying herself with looking up protection charms in her Ministry Guide book, and making Ginny swear that she wouldn't go anywhere without a full auror escort. Bill was busy (also at his mother's orders, Ginny suspected) sealing off any possible entry points to the burrow while Hermione, who had insisted she come over too, was upstairs looking after the children.
'Mum, nothing happened. He didn't even come anywhere near me!' she repeated for what seemed like the twentieth time that evening. 'Now, if you don't mind, I would like to go to bed. Have a good night's sleep.' Molly Weasley looked as if she wanted to stop Ginny but thought otherwise and instead resided to bidding her goodnight.
Harry was exhausted. He had had to run for a good few miles before he was able to find a suitable place to apparate and then he had to draw his tired mind and body together to transport him away. It had not been particularly easy, especially after his wand less display during his encounter with the aurors, and it had left him with a piercing headache.
He shivered, and drew his tattered, weather beaten robes in around him. The cool night air was almost making his muscles seize up and his eyes stung painfully. He had, much to his annoyance, not been able to find any suitable shelter that would both offer his protection from the chill and clouds that were gathering overhead, but also would provide a subtle hiding place, should the aurors pinpoint his location. He had racked his brains, but there was nowhere he could think of going. Nowhere that would be safe.
He sighed and prepared himself for another rough night. He was not going to get any sleep and would probably spend the next day doing a fair bit of exercise. He kicked a rock that was lying nearby on the ground in his frustration, which scared off a rather timid looking fox which had been creeping nearer to where Harry was curled up, but this failed to ease his pent up fury and annoyance. In fact, he barely even felt it; the ends of his toes were frozen and numb with the swiftly descending cold that was falling with the night. Throwing his head back he stared up into the sky, but all he saw was the depressing gloom of the clouds which hung tentatively in the sky, as though they might drop down at any minute and come crashing into the earth.
The cold rain that began to fall, slowly at first, then heavier, was the final nail in the coffin. Harry's chances of any form of comfortable rest that night were gone.
Ginny couldn't sleep. Her mind was heavy with the weight of the events of the past few days. Her children were safe and tucked up in one of the many spare bedrooms that the Burrow had to offer and she was well guarded by some of the best aurors in the whole Ministry. She was perfectly safe, there was no way that anyone, Harry Potter included, could hurt her.
And yet there was still a strange feeling in her heart. It had been there ever since that day, the last time she had seen the man she had married, but today it was stronger and more noticeable than ever. She was unable to put her finger on what exactly it was but she could feel it.
She turned over, feeling restless. The cold moon shone down on her from the dark heavens. Elizabeth would be going to school soon, to Hogwarts, and she stillhad yet to be informed that her father was not lying in a shallow grave somewhere, faithful to the last, killed in a the act of destroying the most powerful dark wizard of the modern age, but was a convicted murderer and had escaped Azkaban, possibly to finish where he left off – and kill the remaining members of the Weasley family. Ginny didn't want to have to be the one to tell her, but knew that it was her responsibility.
Harry had moved on at first light. He had at least managed to find a small amount of food in a dustbin which he had ravenously eaten, leaving none. The young fox he had scared off earlier looked on enviously, but Harry had no thought for pleasing the local wildlife.
Now that he was truly free of the hideous cells of Azkaban he had to think about what he was going to do. Sure, he had escaped to clear his name, but not that he had time to think he realised that he had been so obsessed with the act of getting out that he had not thought about how he was going to proceed. He would have to find out himself who did it as it was clear that he was not going to get any help. He had expected this, but he had still maintained hope that there was at least someone out there that would.
The only problem was that he didn't have the first clue as to which person would possibly have any motive to kill Arthur Weasley. Dumbledore would have some idea.
Then a thought struck him. Dumbledore. He had certainly been acting strangely, well, strangely was perhaps not the right word as any person with that surname tended to be a little eccentric. No, Dumbledore had been acting differently. Harry wouldn't have really made anything of this normally, but, in hindsight it did occur to him that there had been something that was not quite right about the normally understanding and logical man who was then headmaster of the Greatest Wizarding School in the country, arguably the World.
That was certainly somewhere to start then, he would find Dumbledore, and ask the now rather frail old man exactly what had been going on that day. Breaking into the wizards house would not be easy. Harry assumed that Dumbledore would still be living in what had been the Hogsmeade safe house. Having thought about it for a few more seconds he came to his decision almost immediately.
He would have to pay Dumbledore a visit.
The rather large and neatly furnished cottage had been perfect for Albus Dumbledore, being so close to Hogwarts, which, although no longer Headmaster, he would still visit very often, often just to stroll the corridors of the ancient and mysterious building, or perhaps to sit in on a Transfiguration lesson, which, to his never-ending amusement, would continue to put off Mrs. Hermione Weasley, who had become the Transfiguration Professor and the head of Gryffindor house.
He should have enjoyed his near perfect life. His freedom from the pressures of being the Head of the Order was lifted. It was now much less of an elite underground resistance group and more of an honorary title to b e added onto the names of the Courageous men and women who had risked their lives in the War. Or, of course, those who had given enough gold to Percy Weasley's election campaign funds. Even with the corruption at the ministry, Dumbledore should have been satisfied. He had practically everything that he could ever want. Magical Britain could to worse than Weasley. He should be relaxing the twilight of his life in Harmony.
But he couldn't. All because of Harry Potter.
Albus blamed himself for the boy's mistakes, for not being there to guide him and ensure he did not waver in his path. Alas, that chance was gone now, and his heart was deep with bitterness and regret. He had no doubt that Potter had killed the much loved minister for magic. Or did he?
That was the other problem. A problem with no solution, but one which had nagged at him ever since he had looked on as the screaming, pleading man was dragged away by the Dementors. He couldn't be sure that the right man was imprisoned. True, Harry had been found next to the body of Arthur Weasley, grinning and almost laughing holding the very wand which had killed the poor man. Sure that alone was enough to convict the boy. They even had a testimony from one of the ghosts who had alerted Dumbledore in the first place claiming that he had seen with his own eyes Harry murder Arthur.
And still the problem nagged at the old man, who would have been far more content to puzzle over a crossword or logic puzzle. Everything had been so easy. The Trial had been remarkably quick, considering the hundreds of Deatheaters who were due to be tired. So quick, that Harry had been unable to form any kind of defence possible but, in the same amount of time, the prosecution had been able to gather plenty of evidence. It was almost as though they had had it all planned, as though everything had been set out for Harry to walk into.
Shaking his head, Albus chuckled to himself.
'You're loosing it in your old age' he said softly, thinking of the absurdness of his theories. He picked up a well worn book which lay on his coffee table entitled 'Bizarre and Unusual Wizarding Trivia for the Curious Mind' and settled back to read about how a 'Steaming Streeler' cocktail was made. Late that night though, the persistent problem would return, as it always did and he would be forced to put down his book and walk the endless streets of his mind, poking his head round and inspecting every one, no matter how dark.
So much for a restful retirement.
By the time Ginny had eventually drifted into and uneasy and troubled sleep the yells and sounds of activity that filled the Weasley house every morning drew her out of her slumber.
'Only one more week of this,' she mumbled incoherently as she lay in her warm, comfortable bed, vainly trying to drift back off to sleep. Elizabeth would be boarding the Hogwarts Express in seven days and the two boys would be going to nursery accompanied by several of their cousins. She, Ginny, would finally have some peace and quiet. Suddenly a sharp rap on her bedroom window startled her and she sat straight up to see a proud looking and well cared for owl perched on the small crumbling ledge outside the panes of glass.
Climbing out of her bed she dragged herself over to the window and pulling it open she relieved the owl of the letter and, noticing it was addressed to her, allowed herself to fall onto the bet to read it.
HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY
Headmistress: Minerva McGonagall
(Order of Merlin, Second Class, Honorary Member
of the Order of the Phoenix)
The pressures and responsibilities of being headmistress of Hogwarts are never-ending and, unfortunately, last week my long term friend and colleague, Proffessor Flitwick, announced his retirement to me, prompted, I am told, by his desire to be relieved of the pressures of being a teacher and, I suspect, the fact that this year that two of both Fred and George's children will be attending the school. I would sincerely like it if you would take his place as Charms Professor. I recall you expressing a wish to become a teacher several years ago and, having seen your work for the Order, I cannot think of a more suitable candidate.
I apologise for the lateness of this request but I feel that it will solve more than one of your problems. I am aware that, due to recent events, you may be feeling upset, angry and scared. I feel, however, that Hogwarts will provide you with safety as well as a time away from you troubles.
Please think about my offer, I await your reply as soon as possible,
Ginny was shocked to say the least. She remained sitting on her bed for five minutes, thinking about what Minerva had said. She supposed it made sense. Hogwarts was after than the Burrow, even in its current state, and she would be near to Elizabeth for her first year at school. The Hogwarts Owl brought her to her senses with a small nip to her fingers which were still clutched to the letter. It gave her a look as if to say 'If you're going to write a reply, get on with it.' Usually she would have wanted more time to think about such a decision but today she felt tired. It would be good to return to the place where she had spent a great deal of her childhood. She penned a quick reply and then headed off to have a shower and get dressed.
The Owl fluttered in through the high window of Minerva McGonagall's window and the Headmistress looked up from the job advertisement she was penning for the Evening Prophet for the post of Defence against the Dark Arts teacher. As usual the 'jinxed' post had been vacated by the previous candidate at the end of the last term leaving Minerva yet again in a difficult position of having to find a new teacher. There would be soon no adult magical human left who had not had a taste of the job.
She reached over her ancient and scarred desk and untied the piece of parchment from the leg the Owl was patiently holding out to her. She scanned Ginny's hastily written reply and smiled. So Ms. Weasley had decided to come back. The only question was who would be joining her. She sighed and returned to the advertisement. If only she knew exactly who she would end up employing for the job, she would have regretted her words to Ginny immediately...
A/N: Sorry I haven't updated for so long. I hope I can get these out more frequently now. I've been out for a bit too long – at first I wrote a paragraph about Arthur Weasley doing his best to ensure his daughters safety...Glad I came to my senses. Still, hope you enjoyed this chapter, here's a snippet for the next chapter which will appear with the one shown at the end of the previous chapter in the next instalment which you can (hopefully) expect by the end of this week. Don't quote me on that...
Harry stared up at the doors that were forever etched in his memory. Their intricacy and depth was a sign of the age of the homely castle and the one thought on his mind was how pleased to be back. He plucked up his courage and knocked three times on the door. As though someone had been waiting for this they were instantly drawn open and Harry was greeted with the rather unpleasant face of Severus Snape. Remembering to keep his Occlumency shields he looked into the face of his old Potion's Teacher.
'I'm here about the Position of Defence against the Dark Arts Teacher.'