Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all related plot events and characters are the property of JK Rowling.
Summary: PostHogwarts. Harry must deal with the horrors of war, and in doing so he will embrace his heritage and leave a lasting legacy on the world.
A/N: I apologize for the longer wait, but I was moving. Updates will mostly likely be a week or two apart now. Here's the start of part two. Enjoy!
PART TWO, June 2009
Chapter 17: All Things Lead Back
Twenty-eight-year-old Harry rolled out of bed into a standing position and stretched. He was only wearing a pair of boxers, and most of the upper year females (and probably some of the males) at Hogwarts would have paid good money to see him like that. His raven hair was as shaggy as ever, but his twenties had been good to his face, as it had become rugged and stubbly. His training, which he had continued over the years, had helped him to become almost perfectly physically fit—he was sculpted but his muscles weren't huge. Anyone could tell there was a huge amount of raw power contained in him, just from how lithe and graceful most of his movements were.
It was early—the sun was just coming up—on this last day of another year at Hogwarts. It was June 23rd, 2009, and the students had one more day of classes before graduation. All finals, OWLS, and NEWTS were over with, and this last day was used as a way for teachers and students to have a little fun, all the while saying goodbye to one another. Harry slipped on a pair of running shorts and padded out of his room, pulling a battered pair of trainers on as he went. He no longer used the exit through the Gryffindor common room; instead, he had adjusted the portrait to bring him directly into the hall. The suite was quiet these days, with Helen in the Ravenclaw dorms, as she had been for seven years now.
Helen was quite the amazing student. She was head girl, Ravenclaw quidditch captain, and had achieved the highest OWL scores in the history of Hogwarts. She and Harry were still waiting on her NEWTS, but Harry was fairly sure it was going to be a repeat of what she had accomplished at the end of her fifth year. She had also grown and matured quite nicely—5'9", plenty of curves, and sleek, straight brown hair. Harry had observed some of the male population eying her lasciviously, but it was a silent notion at Hogwarts that messing with Helen would probably incur the wrath of everyone's favorite Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.
Harry smirked as he set off on his run, leaping down the last three steps onto the damp grass of the grounds. He loved teaching, and he was glad that it had all worked out this way. He couldn't imagine being an Auror. He would protect people with his life, but his days of wantonly chasing dark wizards were over. He might have been the most powerful wizard in the word, but his talents were not put to use in that area unless absolutely needed. He had once been called by the Australian Ministry of Magic to put down a problematic group of rogue wizards, and he had reluctantly agreed. He had only been in Australia for four hours. The crime rate—in Wizarding Australia, at least—had dropped off almost completely after Harry's little visit.
He had hated his fame during his teenage years, but it amused him now. It amused him to see the students unable to comprehend how normal he actually was when they first entered Hogwarts, and how most of them regarded him as a peer by the time they left. That was how he treated his students; they were his peers. He was not above them because he was older or more powerful. He had quickly discovered that it really was true that teachers learned things from their students on a daily basis.
Harry was moving quickly, at around a 5-minute pace, but he did not slow for nearly an hour. Over the years, his cardiovascular fitness had steadily improved to the point where he might have been one of the best distance runners in the world, but he never really raced. He liked to run alone, as it gave him time to organize his thoughts and order his mind, and he enjoyed the peaceful serenity of Hogwarts early in the morning. As it was now, nearing July, the mornings were fairly warm, so Harry ran without a shirt. When he passed the steps for a final time, he increased his speed, nearly sprinting. It was his tradition to do the final lap of the grounds at a sprint, and he did it every morning. As he came around to the entrance again, he heard a wolf whistle.
Coming to a stop, he rested his hands behind his head and looked up. He smiled when he saw who it was.
Chest heaving, he said, "Is there something I can do for you, miss?"
"Yeah, you can put on a bloody shirt, Dad." Helen rolled her eyes at her father's crooked grin. "I don't need to see all of my classmates practically tripping over themselves and drooling, which they will if they see you like that."
Harry shrugged and started up the steps. The sun glinted off his sweat…and Helen had to admit to herself that her father was a handsome bloke. She would never feel anything for him in that way, because that would just be gross, but she was still a warm-blooded human, and was surprised that he had remained single for so long. Sure, most of the girls he met around his age were after either his good looks or his wealth, but there should have been someone during the past ten years who caught his fancy.
"Knut for your thoughts," Harry said, as he conjured a shirt for himself. He pulled it over his head, and then looked pointedly at Helen. It still amazed him that she was almost eye level—she used to be so small.
"Oh…nothing," she sighed. She gave Harry a crooked smile of her own, which she seemed to have inherited from him, and flipped her hair over her shoulder. "I just wish, well, you know. I wish you were completely happy."
He slung an arm around her as they made their way up the stairs. It was still early, and there were very few people up. "I'm not sure what you mean, honey."
Helen shrugged his arm off once they reached the first floor landing and turned to look at him in the eyes. She was going to be blunt, if that's what it took. "Why haven't you tried to find anyone, Dad?"
Harry's face fell slightly, but it was such a small and passing gesture that most would have missed it. Helen, however, did not.
"I don't know, Helen…and I'd prefer not to have this same tired discussion all over again." He met her eyes again, and she soon dropped them. She shrugged her shoulders.
"I'm gonna get a shower. I'll see you at breakfast." With that, Harry turned and walked away.
Helen watched his retreating back, which eventually disappeared up the next flight of stairs. She kept bringing the subject up because it was bothering her. She wanted her father to be happy, and although he was most of the time, she could tell that he was lonely sometimes. She wanted him to happy all the time, and that loneliness she saw was making that impossible.
Harry had improved drastically over the years, but there were still moments where she and a few other astute observers, who were close to Harry, could tell when things had crept back up on him. He wouldn't close himself off like he used to, but he wasn't as jovial or easy-going. She wanted him to be carefree all the time, and the lack of a love in his life was preventing that. It had been ten and a half years since her Mum's death; actually, Helen didn't even remember her all that well. She remembered what she looked like and what her personality was like, but she couldn't remember what her voice had sounded like.
Harry had moved on, in almost everything else, but that still remained. He had not been able to give his heart to anyone, and she hated to see him without that to complete his life. She sighed, shaking herself from her musings, and turned to head for the Great Hall.
Harry pressed open the door to his classroom, thinking about this last class ever with Helen. He had the seventh year Gryffindors and Ravenclaws for his last lesson of the year, and he was astounded that seven years had passed so quickly.
He still remembered with a slight grin the very first class that Helen had had with him, and how she had basically taken it over when Harry was going to slow for her. Her classmates had been rather annoyed at the time, but that soon turned to amazement over the next few weeks as she displayed the depth and breadth of her knowledge. The seventh year Ravenclaws were the most advanced of any house, and that was probably due to Helen's place in their lives for seven years. She influenced people around her like that—her intelligence, enthusiasm, and drive was infectious, and it had even slowly spread to the other houses. By far, her year had the highest OWL scores in history, which Harry knew was partly due to the increased quality of teaching in the last decade or so, but he also secretly attributed some of that to Helen.
He sat down at his desk, waiting for the students to arrive, and continued to ponder the past. The past ten years had started off horribly, but with a little help here and there, Harry had come out of it a changed person. Helen, especially, had helped him, and he and her had been even closer. Their bond remained strong to this day, and at some point he had stopped thinking of her as his adoptive daughter—she was his blood in all the ways that mattered.
The other person he owed much of his current success and state of mind to was the Headmaster, and him and Dumbledore had continued to develop their friendship over the years. Harry had found an odd duality between them; sometimes, Dumbledore would feel like the mentor, but other times Harry would feel like a mentor to the old, wise man. It fit their relationship perfectly, and he thought that was why they got along so well together. It helped that they were both extremely powerful and trained constantly…actually, because Helen was almost as powerful as Dumbledore, the three of them were very close.
Harry, Helen, and Dumbledore could often be seen walking the grounds together, and many students wondered what such an eclectic group could be talking about. There was the one hundred and sixty-something-year-old Headmaster…the twenty-eight-year-old legend and hero of the Wizarding world, and an eighteen-year-old prodigy. They made for a formidable combination, as many of the students had heard tales of them fighting, together and separately, and each had a certain amount of ingrained respect these days.
Harry's head snapped up in momentarily surprise as the door to his classroom banged open, and he almost laughed as he calmed his racing heart. He had been so deep in thought he hadn't even heard his students approaching. He watched as the people he'd taught for all these years take a seat in his classroom, for the last time, and waved his wand to close the door once they were all seated. Helen was near the back, where she always was, talking to a few of her friends. They were a dark-haired girl named Anna and a blond-haired boy named Paul.
Harry cleared his throat and wrapped his knuckles on his desk; all chatter stopped and his class looked expectantly at him. Harry was silently pleased—he never took for granted the respect people showed him.
"So I trust you all did well on your NEWTS?" he asked. He was greeted with a host of nods and smiles, and he was glad to see that no one looked unhappy.
"Well, that is good news, indeed," Harry said, smiling.
A Gryffindor named Jacob raised his hand. "Professor, what will be doing today? Now that NEWTS are over…" he trailed off, giving Harry a questioning look.
"Ah, I'm glad that you have asked, Jacob," Harry replied. Those in the class could see his green eyes twinkling slightly, eerily similar to the way Dumbledore's did. "I thought I could make good on my promise and finally show some of you all what you've been wanting to see." He smiled that crooked grin when he saw a few faces light up. They knew what he was talking about.
"We've only been waiting seven years for this," one Ravenclaw girl commented, loud enough for everyone to hear, and they all laughed, even Harry.
"I don't know about you, but I think I've been waiting seventeen," said another girl, and then stared openly at Harry. He shook his head bemusedly.
"Merlin…I hope I don't disappoint then…" and many of them laughed again.
"I have an idea," a familiar voice said, from the back of the class. The students and Harry turned to Helen; Harry raised an eyebrow. They all knew her ideas were usually worth listening to.
"Why don't Dad and I duel?" she asked, slyly. Harry mock glared at her, but he could see the class had already unanimously agreed with her. Some of them were fairly bouncing in their seats.
He let out a loud, theatrical sigh. "Fine," he just about whined, "but I think I need to remind you of something." His gaze zeroed in on Helen. "That's Professor, Miss Potter." The class laughed again. They always enjoyed the banter their professor and his daughter shot back and forth. She harrumphed and stood from her seat in a flowing motion. The training during the past decade had been good on her, too, and she was probably almost as physically fit as Harry was.
"I've got ten galleons on Helen!" Paul yelled, and he was soon taking bets for his classmates.
Harry looked affronted. He pouted. "I'm surprised you all have so little faith in my abilities." He smirked at Helen, who was sauntering up the middle row. "I'm pretty sure you're going down."
She raised an eyebrow in return. "Oh really?" Harry stood, shaking his head slightly and chuckling, and moved around his desk. He banished everything in the front of the room temporarily to his office with barely a twitch of his finger, but no one was surprised as they were all used to his seemingly routine displays of incredible magical power and prowess. He erected a shield so that nothing would hit the class, and conjured a large dueling platform for him and Helen. She was about to turn away, but she stopped when Harry rested a hand on her shoulder. He leaned in close.
"How do you want to do this?" he whispered in her ear.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean…are we holding back? Are we ascending? Fervens; Animus?"
"Oh," she whispered, pausing to think. "Hmm…why not just go all out?"
Harry smiled; he had expected that of her. "Alright…I'll try not to hurt you," he finished louder.
The class chuckled. "You're going to eat your words, Potter," Helen responded, and then turned her back. There were some oohs from the class, because she rarely called him that. It was, after all, slightly disrespectful. Harry didn't seem to care, though, and turned to go to his own side of the platform.
The class went silent as Harry and Helen stepped onto their respective sides. This was something they'd been waiting to see for a long time, and most of them had always had their suspicions that Helen was hiding a little something extra from them all.
They leaned back in sudden shock as an emerald green aura exploded from Harry. His robes were whipping in an indistinct breeze. They could all almost touch the love that was coming off of him. They were not surprised, however, at the presence of the aura itself. Many years ago, when they were first years, the Headmaster had explained to them all what him and Harry could do, with a brief demonstration. They had all only seen it a few times since, though.
Then they were genuinely surprised, though, because a vivid magenta aura flashed out from Helen. They all had no idea that she could do that as well, and there were some envious as well as awestruck stares. They could feel that she was excited; she was excited to be up there with her father and to finally be able to show off a little.
Harry raised his wand, and the class held their breath for the first spell, but when it came it wasn't directed at Helen. "Increpitas Inflecto Forma Veres," he said, and they watched as his wand changed into a crimson and gold Crusader blade. "Animus," he intoned, and the red and gold flames flashed out into a brilliant inferno around the sword.
The class knew he could do this, but had only seen it once. To their great surprise, Helen repeated her father's and their professor's actions, changing her wand into a blue and bronze scimitar. "Fervens," she said, and the blue and bronze flames engulfed the sword. Many of the students leaned forward in anticipation—this surely was going to be something to remember.
"Ready, hun?" Harry called sweetly. He gave Helen a disarming smile.
She scowled at him, and then gave him her own bright smile. Her voice dripping with sugar, she replied, "You might want to be the one that's ready, Dad."
And then there was silence. No one breathed; no one moved. Harry and Helen were waiting for the other to make the first move, and the class was just waiting for the action to start. Harry raised his sword a fraction of an inch, and that was all Helen needed.
"Expelliarmus!" she cried, and the class was slightly disappointed. They knew that the disarming spell was a simple one, and they were hoping for some fireworks. They weren't disappointed, though, because as Harry had easily blocked it, Helen had Apparated across the platform just behind her spell.
With his slight distraction, he hadn't noticed, and Helen was sweeping the flat of her blade toward his knees. He countered it just in time, and there was a loud, resonating ringing noise as the metal met. Harry and Helen stared ferociously into each other's eyes for a moment, straining against the other's strength, before Helen leapt back, displaying her acrobatic abilities with a tight back flip.
Harry then seemed to soar toward her, aiming his Crusader blade at her shoulders, but she countered it, and swung her scimitar. They did this for a little while, and Harry had to work over time to keep up with her flurry of blows. She was still, even ten years later, more skilled and a bit faster with a sword than he was.
Helen dropped to the floor and swept her feet toward Harry's, but he was quick enough to leap forward over her to get out of the way. As he was halfway through his somersault, he brought his sword down toward her back, but Helen parried it, rolling to her feet in a smooth motion. Harry landed and rolled away, coming up ready to parry more blows.
He straightened when he noticed Helen smirking at him. He cocked his head to the side.
She raised Fervens. "Du apparens," she said, and the flames became even brighter for a moment. Then, with a pop, and exact copy of the scimitar appeared in the air next to the real one. She nimbly caught it by the handle before it could drop to the floor.
"Raising the stakes, are we?" Harry asked. The class barely registered the fact that he had spoken, because they were still amazed and taken aback at how fast they had been moving. It was almost too fast for their eyes to watch; Helen, in particular, looked like a blur.
Harry raised Animus and repeated the process, and he was soon wielding too hefty Crusader blades. He was strong enough to handle it now, but he was a little worried about parrying twice as many blows from her. He did have another sword, like her, but he just wasn't that fast.
Helen flew into the air, twirling at Harry. She had extended the scimitars, and they were a whirlwind of death as they flew toward Harry. He crossed his blades in an x-shape in front of him, backing up a little as Helen came down. He flinched as she hit them several times in the space of a second, and then sawed one blade and then the other down toward her just as she landed. She rolled away, parrying the first, and receiving a glancing blow on the shoulder from the second.
"Good thing these blades are dulled, eh?" Harry called, as he strained to ward off her counter. The swordplay went on for many minutes, and the class could only watch mesmerized by what they were witnessing. Harry and Helen were lightning quick, deadly, flexible, and acrobatic. Their reflexes were astounding, and the fact that Harry could wield two Crusader blades one-handed, which were quite large, was a testament to his physical strength.
Helen seemed to be getting the upper hand, though, as she was clearly scoring more blows than Harry was. Just as Harry was about to be driven off an end of the platform, he Apparated to the opposite side, facing Helen. She whirled, flipping the scimitar so she was holding it by the fire-engulfed blade as she did so, and hurled it mightily at Harry. Harry dropped one of his blades and caught it out of the air, only to have it disappear. It had been the copy. He looked down, noticing that his own copy had disappeared.
"Shall we move on to bigger and better things?" Helen asked. "Clearly, we can tell who's the better swordsperson." Harry snickered at her. "What?" she asked, mildly offended.
"Oh, nothing…it's just, you're young and you have a lot to learn." He smiled at her death glare. "You may be faster than me, Helen, but I'm still more powerful." He had his teaching voice on, which Helen recognized, and her death glare changed into a thoughtful look.
"Doesn't the trade-off balance out, though?" All playfulness was gone from her voice, because she knew Harry was a master tactician. She wanted to hear his opinion. They both had seemingly forgotten the class was there.
"That all depends," Harry started, scratching the back of his head for a moment. "In a magic-only situation, the more powerful usually wins. In a physical combat situation, the faster usually wins—over both the magically and physically more powerful. However, in a situation where magical and Muggle combat are mixed, you would have to force it to your advantage."
Helen nodded slowly. "So I would want to try to make the duel be more physically oriented, whereas you, if you were against someone like me, would try to force it to be more magical."
"Yes, exactly," Harry said. Many members of the class were nodding, as it definitely made sense.
"Alright, well how do you want to proceed?"
"Exactly as we have been, but let's try to mix some magic in as well," Harry responded.
Helen nodded and set herself once again. Harry's eyes briefly went to the class, seeing that they were all entranced, and he set himself as well.
Suddenly, Helen started sprinting across the platform toward Harry. Harry stood there, not moving, trying to perceive what she was up to. She raised her hand, the one without the sword, and yelled, "Bombarda!" A pressure wave seemed to sweep forth from her outstretched palm, covering the short distance between Harry and her in microseconds. Harry barely had time to slice down the center of it with his sword, but he was blown back off his feet by a second spell, that she had cast silently.
He rolled through the air and landed somewhat on his feet. He Apparated a short distance a way, hearing the clang of Helen's scimitar hitting the floor where he had just been.
He willed a strong Protego up around him, and the class watched as solid gold magical barrier snapped into place without a motion or speech from Harry. He whirled and parried a physical blow from Helen, and started to gather his energy. He kept Helen occupied with his sword, trying to distract her from what he was really doing. He was readying himself for a large magical outburst—one that would hopefully end the duel.
Helen seemed to catch on though, and Apparated across the room. Harry and Helen's Apparation wasn't strange to anyone, because they all knew that a select few could do it within Hogwarts, but it was annoying to try and find the combatants after they had done so.
Harry laughed. "You can't escape that easily, Helen." The green aura surrounding him was getting brighter and brighter, and Harry stalked across the room to where he knew Helen was. She had cast an Invisibility charm on herself, but through his advanced powers he could make out the vague outline of her. She was in a corner, seemingly gathering her own magical energy, either to counter or block Harry's.
Suddenly, Harry was knocked forward…into the very corner where he thought Helen had been. She must have copied herself, and then hidden her real self very well. Harry Apparated from the corner to a spot ten feet behind him, and smirked when he saw he was right behind Helen.
She whirled, but it was too late. He had already released the pent up energy. The class heard a hissing noise as the air behind the shield seemed to rush together, and then there was a shockwave as Harry's magical force expanded outward. Helen had just enough time to cross her arms in front of her and hastily raise a Protego, but as Harry had said, he was more magically powerful. His magic crashed against and then through her barrier, throwing her across the room. Her sword skittered from her, reverting back to wand form.
Harry Apparated across the room to her, ready to continue fighting, but he could see that she was slightly dazed. He smiled sheepishly at her and lent his hand, pulling her up. She slowly brushed herself off and picked up her wand. She shook her head, as if to clear it.
"Ouch…" she almost groaned.
"Can you tell me what you did wrong?" Harry asked. Helen smiled inwardly, even though her head was pounding. Harry never passed up teaching opportunities.
"Er…I let the duel become too magical."
"Well, yes, but there is something else." When Harry paused, Helen raised her eyebrow at him. "You could have used your sword's innate ability to counter magic to fend off at least a quarter of what I put out."
Helen rolled her eyes. "Damn it all. And I go for the stupid Protego."
"Now, wait a second…Protego isn't stupid. It's highly effective, and even more so if used with other means of blocking and countering." He gave her a pointed look.
"Yeah, yeah, all right, I get the point. You beat me, fair and square."
Harry smiled. "So that's…what? Three thousand, you; three, me?"
Helen laughed at him. He loved to see her face light up like that. Her brown eyes seemed to sparkle. As Harry returned to his normal magical form, he finished, "I don't think you have anything to worry about, sweetie."
Helen descended as well, and with a wave of her hand, the shield protecting the class went down. She slipped her arm around her father's shoulder. He smiled at her, and then looked to the rest of the class.
"Well, that's it." He watched as they began to gather their things. "I'm very happy to have been able to teach each and every one of you. All of you have great things in your future, if you apply yourselves. My door is always open; if you need anything in the future, anything at all, don't hesitate to come to me."
There were a smattering of thank yous, smiles, and a few came up to shake Harry's hand. As the door closed behind the last one to exit, Harry turned to Helen.
"Well that was fun, wasn't it?"
She nodded. "Oh, definitely." Her smile broadened. "I just wished I'd beaten you!"
Harry tightened his arm that was around her back for a moment, and pecked her cheek. He then turned away and started to clean up his desk. "You can't win 'em all; although, you just about do."
"What can I say?" she said airily. "I'm bloody brilliant."
"And bloody arrogant!" Harry teased. He glanced at her, noticing that she had stuck her tongue out at him. "Did I mention immature, as well?"
She playfully shoved Harry, and then gave him a peck on his cheek of her own. "I'll see you at dinner, Dad." Harry nodded, and turned back to cleaning up his desk. He listened to her gather her stuff, pad to the door, and then exit. The door closed with a soft click.
Harry rested on the couch in his quarters, attempting to read part of a textbook he had in mind for the next year's classes, but his mind kept wandering. He sighed and closed the book, setting it down on the coffee table. He hadn't realized it at the time, but what Helen had said to him had affected him.
Sure, she had casually brought it up, but Harry's love life was somewhat of a sore spot. Ever since…Ginny had died, so many years ago now, he'd just never been that comfortable with a woman. He'd been on plenty of dates, and had even been in two serious relationships, but things had just never clicked.
He knew that he was approaching thirty, which was extremely old to be a bachelor in the Wizarding world, but there always seemed to be something that stopped him from going any further than serious dating. As he settled back into the comfortable, plush couch, his thoughts went to the events of three years prior…
It was the end of June 2006, and Harry was wrapping up another year's work. He only had a few more things to put away, as all the students' papers were graded, and was working fast to get the last bit done. It had been a long year…well, it felt like one, for some reason, and he was looking forward to six weeks of relaxation.
He shrunk the last box and stored it in the bottom drawer of his desk, and then waved his wand across the classroom. The desks moved to the back of the room, stacking and neatly arranging themselves so they were out of the way. Empty like this…with everything put away or moved to the corners…his room felt so big. He turned in a complete circle, checking to make sure everything was in order, but stopped when his eyes came to rest on the door to his classroom. Standing there was a face from the past: Melanie Brown.
She had shoulder length blond hair, fair and unblemished skin, and a very nice figure for a 19-year-old. Even though Harry was almost twenty-six, he could appreciate her good looks. He furrowed his brow for a moment, puzzling over why she was there. She still hadn't noticed that he'd seen her, as she was gazing down the corridor, so he had time to think. She had graduated the previous year, Head Girl and one of the smartest witches in the last century at Hogwarts. Only Hermione and Helen, who was four years younger, rivaled her. He vaguely remembered hearing something about her taking a top position at the Ministry, and had no idea why she would be here now.
She finally noticed that he was looking at her, and smiled. She had a pristine smile. "Hello, Professor…or can I call you Harry?"
"Mm…Harry is fine, Miss Brown." He raised an eyebrow. "I presume it is still miss?"
"Yes, it is, but please, call me Melanie."
"Alright…" When she didn't say anything further, Harry forged on. "So why are you here today, Melanie?"
For a moment, she looked hesitant, or maybe uncomfortable, but it passed, and that golden smile lit across her face once again.
"Well, Harry…I was wondering if, um…"
"Spit it out, Melanie," he said, smiling at her. "You were never afraid to speak out in class."
More white teeth flashed, and she continued. "I was wondering, well…I was wondering ifyouwantedtogooutsometime?"
Harry shook his head. "What? A little slower, please…"
She took a deep breath. "I was wondering if you wanted to go out sometime?"
Harry blinked. What the hell? "Umm…"
"That is, if you thought it would be a good idea," she added quickly.
Harry felt like he was missing something; he was half expecting the twins to jump out and announce it as some big joke. He scratched the back of his head. "Err…Melanie, I don't really know."
Her face fell. He noticed what looked like genuine hurt in her eyes. Maybe this wasn't some joke… "I was your teacher…that probably isn't a good idea."
She pursed her lips. "Yes, you were my teacher. You aren't anymore, though. All that ethics bullshit doesn't really apply anymore, does it?"
Things were too out of control for Harry to comprehend it all. Her mood and the tone of her voice were shifting faster than he could snap his fingers. What really confused him, though, was that she and him had never really been that close as student and teacher. She had always been on top of things, and had rarely…if ever, actually…come to him for help. This all felt really out of left field.
"Help me out here, for a second. Am I missing something, Melanie?" he asked.
She raised an eyebrow and tilted her head. "What do you mean?"
"What…why are you asking me this? What brought this on?" At her confused look, he continued. "We were not very close as teacher and student, so I'm at a loss here."
Her cheeks turned a light shade of pink. "I was always too afraid, Prof…Harry. I've always admired you, though, ever since that very first class when you disillusioned all of us of our fantasies."
"I did what?"
"You knocked yourself down off that pedestal we all had you on, and I admired you for it. I was expecting an arrogant, pompous prick; instead, my DADA teacher for seven years was sweet and kind and nothing like the Harry Potter I thought you would have been."
Harry felt his own cheeks warm a little. "Umm, thanks."
She dipped her head. "I was too much of a pussy—" but she cut off at Harry's shocked face.
"Oh, come on, surely you've heard girls with potty mouths before." When Harry didn't say anything, she rolled her eyes. "Well, anyways, I was too much of a pussy," she continued, placing special emphasis on the naughty word, "to do anything about that."
Harry's lips twitched. She had fire in her, this one. "You always participated in class…in fact, I seem to remember you liked to correct me from time to time."
"Ah yes, and don't you know why?"
She rolled her eyes once again when Harry shook his head. "Come on! I was flirting with you. Apparently, it was really obvious, too, because many people teased me about it. The first date I ever went on, you know what the boy said to me?"
Of course Harry didn't know, so he shook his head again. "'How am I going to compete with Professor Potter?'" Harry snorted at the image, and Melanie chuckled as well. His eyes were drawn to her bouncing chest…but he quickly stopped that train of thought. She had been his student
He raised his eyes to hers, and he saw that she must have noticed where his eyes had went, because she was smirking slightly at him. He blushed a little deeper.
"Yes, well, I'm quite certain that I never noticed it."
"Well…what do you say? Wanna go out sometime?"
"Oh, I dunno…" Harry said. This was all very weird to him. "Why did you wait so long, if this was your master plan? You graduated a year ago now…"
"Like I said, I was too much of a—"
"Alright, alright, I get it," he said, cutting her dirty mouth off. "But like I said, I don't know if I'd be comfortable with it."
Her face fell again. Her voice was very quiet when she spoke. "What's wrong? Is it me?"
Harry inwardly groaned. "No, no, it's not you. Actually, you're wonderful, really. You're smart, beautiful, funny, have a dirty mouth…" he trailed off. That immaculate smile had returned. "It's just…I don't know if I'm ready for this at the moment."
She pouted; her ruby red lower lip came out the slightest bit. "Just give it a try?" Harry looked skeptical. "I won't bite…hard," she smirked. There was something about the sultry way she had said that, with just the right amount of true passion, that overcame any doubts he had.
She fairly squealed in delight, and ran up to Harry, throwing her arms around him. Stunned, he awkwardly patted her back.
"I knew you'd say yes! How about…how about tonight?"
"Well…yeah, I guess that'd work out. School is over for the year." Melanie backed away and conjured a piece of parchment and a quill, scribbling something down. She handed it to Harry.
"That's my address. Pick me up at eight?"
"Yeah, sure…but, where are we going?"
"How about out to dinner and then dancing." She looked thoughtful. "I know of a few good places in Muggle London. That way you won't be recognized." She winked at him.
Harry let out a soft laugh. He actually might enjoy himself. "Alright. I'll see you at eight."
She nodded, and turned to leave, but he noticed that her gaze lingered on him for a little longer than normal as her body pivoted. Suddenly, he felt very hot. He could tell by the look in her eyes that she was undressing him in her mind. He sincerely hoped that she wasn't only after his body.
As it turned out, she wasn't, and their relationship quickly became quite serious. They dated quite a few times through that summer, and as fall came about, they began to see each other almost every night. Harry was busy with teaching, as she was with her job, but they found time for each other. Harry loved the ease with which he could talk to her; she had a great sense of humor and nothing, absolutely nothing—even the raunchiest of raunchy jokes—offended her.
He was definitely feeling something for her, but he was reluctant to call it love. If he was honest with himself, he didn't know if would ever be able to feel love again. There was something, though, and as winter rolled around, they were ready to take their relationship to the next level. One evening near Christmas, they were holed up in his suite in Hogwarts, snuggled together on the couch. There was a roaring fire and they both had hot chocolate in their hands. The quilt Harry had pulled over them was very comfortable.
Things escalated quickly, and the hot chocolate was soon forgotten. Just as they were about to consummate their relationship, though, Harry put the brakes on. It was sudden and Melanie was shocked, but Harry couldn't help it. It didn't feel right. He had only given himself to one person like that, and it caused a pain deep in his chest, somewhere behind his heart, to be reminded of Ginny so vividly.
Melanie had asked what was wrong, but Harry was unable to say. He just couldn't put into words what he was feeling. She had begun to cry, thinking that it was she, and had left in tears before Harry could stop her. He had tried to contact her several times during the following days, but all of his attempts went unanswered. Finally, he had just Apparated over the Ministry.
When she saw him, however, she had, in no uncertain terms, told him that she never wanted to see him again. Harry was shocked…and hurt. He had thought that she cared more about just the sex, but apparently, if she didn't want anything to do with him because he hadn't wanted to do that just yet, it really was about that.
Harry never saw her again after that day, and hadn't been involved in a serious relationship since. He couldn't face that kind of rejection another time, and the hurt from the loss Ginny was still festering somewhere deep inside him.
Harry snorted and bolted upright. He looked around dazedly for a moment, blinking his eyes rapidly, trying to get his bearings. As the room came into focus, he realized he must have fallen asleep at some point. He cast a time charm as he rubbed his eyes, seeing that it was almost dinner. He yawned and stretched, working the kinks out of his body. He hadn't slept on a couch in a long time, and he probably wouldn't again for a longer time. It was remarkable how much sorer he felt doing that now than when he was eighteen.
He went into the bathroom to freshen himself up. He splashed some water onto his face, and grabbed the hand towel to dry it off. As it slowly lowered over his face, he stared at himself in the mirror; his hands slowly dropped to his sides.
The startling green eyes stared back at him, taking in their counterpart as well. He noticed some lines that he hadn't seen before around his eyes, and the corners of his mouth, but besides that and the stubble, it hadn't really changed much since his teenage years. He blinked once, and shook his head. He cleared the last tatters of memories of Melanie away, and made for the portrait hole.
Harry stopped suddenly. What was he doing? He shook his head ruefully, and disappeared from his suite, reappearing behind the Head Table in the Great Hall. The Professors were all there, and the students had just started to file in.
"Ah, Harry, glad you could make it," a familiar voice said, and Harry turned with a smile on his face. The Headmaster was sitting there, grinning at him.
"Yeah, I decided to be lazy today," Harry countered.
"I wouldn't call it laziness; I would call it efficiency," the old man said. His bright blue eyes were twinkling. Harry inclined his head to him as he sat down. The Headmaster hadn't really changed over the years. In fact, he actually looked a bit younger because of the training him, Harry, and Helen had been doing so much of.
"So, it's the end of another year, Albus," Harry said, as he settled comfortably into the seat next to the Dumbledore.
Most of the students had entered the Hall and had sat down. "How do you think the year was?" Harry asked.
Dumbledore glanced at the full Hall. "Just a moment," he said, and stood up. Raising his voice, he addressed the students. "And we have come to the end of another glorious year at Hogwarts. I hope you all studied hard and found time to enjoy yourselves, as well. I will have more end of term announcements after the meal, but for now, tuck in!" A wondrous feast popped into place on the tables around the giant room. Dumbledore sat down, placing some succulent roast beef onto his plate.
"Alright…where were we?" he mused, as he took a bite. "Ah, yes, this past year." Harry chuckled in amusement at the old man's antics as he piled his own food on his plate.
"I think it has been wonderful, Harry."
Harry turned to him. "Care to embellish?"
"Well, let's see…we have had the highest attendance ever at Hogwarts this year, as well as the highest OWL and NEWT scores in history—"
"You already know them?" Harry interrupted him.
"Why yes, of course."
"But I thought the students don't receive them until late July?" Harry crunched on salty, greasy, wonderful fries, waiting for an answer.
"Yes, they do receive them quite late, I guess. Harry, the Ministry has them graded by the next day."
Harry's face contorted. "Why the hell do they wait so long then?" He was imagining Helen's increasing panic as the date came closer for the arrival of her scores, and it annoyed him slightly that it could be avoided.
Dumbledore shrugged. "Perhaps they enjoy making the students wait."
Harry mumbled something under his breath, and Dumbledore chuckled at him. "So…going back to what you said…you've seen them then, Albus?"
He nodded. "Yes, I have."
"Oh? And how did Helen do?"
"Worried are you, Harry?"
"What? No, of course not. I just want to mollify her nervousness if I can."
The corners of Dumbledore's lips lifted. "Ever the concerned father, I see," the Headmaster said lightly. Harry mock glared at him.
"Out with the scores, old man."
"She received an O+ on every single one of her NEWTS, Harry."
Harry almost choked on his food. "Really?" he breathed.
"I know how you feel, Harry. I was astounded myself. The most O+'s that have ever been acquired by a single student is one, and she went and got them all."
"Well…Merlin…I guess there aren't any doubts left that she really is an heir to Rowena," he joked.
"No, definitely not," Dumbledore agreed.
"She will be happy, that's for sure."
"I think, Harry, that that is an understatement," Dumbledore imparted, and Harry chuckled a bit. He had to agree with him. Helen would be more than happy. There probably wasn't an adequate word to describe how happy she would actually be.
"To answer your question further, though, it has been a good year, and not just at Hogwarts."
"How so?" Harry questioned.
"The Ministry is finally making headway with the giants, and some new legislation was passed with regard to werewolf rights. They can now own and operate their own business if they so choose."
Harry furrowed his brows. "How is Remus these days, Albus?"
Dumbledore smiled. "Remus is great, Harry. He really enjoys his work at the Ministry, and I wouldn't be surprised if he someday is Deputy to the Minister or Minister himself. He holds a great deal of respect there."
"No surprise there. All of his students held a great deal of respect for him."
"Yes, they did…how about you, though?" Dumbledore asked.
"How was your year, Harry?"
"Oh…well it was fine, can't complain. All of my students were great, this new curriculum that we've been developing is working out well…" His voice slowly trailed off, though.
Dumbledore looked at him. "Harry? What is it?"
"Oh…nothing. I'm just…I just can't believe that Helen is already graduating. It all goes so fast. Seems like just yesterday she was being sorted."
Dumbledore smiled fondly. "Yes…it does. She is a wonderful person, Harry. You know why, right?"
Harry turned his head and looked at the Headmaster. "Because she is?"
"Well, partly, yes, but there is another reason." He paused. "You, Harry. She turned out so well because of you."
Harry waved it off. "Sure, say what you will, but she gets most of the credit. I was just there to help her along the way. And," he said, smiling a bit, "she was there to help me along the way, too."
They ate in silence for a few moments after that. Harry's eyes went to the rest of the teachers at the Head table. There was Flitwick, who was just as tiny, cheerful, and squeaky as ever…there was McGonagall, who was still stern and probably the most impartial teacher in the school…there was Sprout, who had some dirt smudged on her cheeks…there was Snape, who still had greasy hair and pale skin. Harry's eyes rested on Snape for a moment.
"Did you find anyone to replace Severus yet?"
Dumbledore looked sideways at him. "You will just have to wait to find out, like the students and the rest of the teachers." His blue eyes were twinkling extra fast.
"Alright…I guess that means yes, though. Hmm…who could it be…" Harry pondered out loud. He really had no idea. He didn't know of any other potions masters that would have wanted the job.
"No hints, Albus?"
"No, Harry, I'm afraid not." The blue eyes were positively blinding now. Harry knew that something was up, but the old man could be inordinately stubborn when he wanted to be.
"There was never any doubt in my mind that you would." Dumbledore chuckled at the glare that Harry gave him. Just then, dessert showed up. It was a fine spread, and Harry greatly enjoyed the cherry tart. He had three slices of it.
Finally, Dumbledore stood up, and with a wave of his hand, the Great Hall was cleared of its food. He looked down over his half-moon spectacles at the students sitting before him.
"Now that we are all fed and watered, I have several end of term announcements for all of you."
He paused, and a vast silence swept through the Hall. Harry almost snickered to himself. He remembered when he had thought of Dumbledore as some king of legend, like most of these students did, but that changed as he got to know the man. Dumbledore was wise and powerful, but he wasn't legendary.
"The first is an old man's plea: tonight, have fun and party, but be safe. Enjoy your last night at Hogwarts, but be safe. Graduation is tomorrow, and I expect you all to be healthy and fit for it." There were murmurs of agreement.
"Secondly, there are several changes in staff that I must make you aware of. The first involves your Potions teacher, Professor Snape." Dumbledore glanced over at Snape, whose face remained impassive. "He has decided to open an Apothecary in Diagon Alley to make further use of his mastery, and that leaves the position vacant."
This was what Harry had wanted to know. He was curious as to who was replacing Snape. "Therefore, I think you will all be pleased to learn that your Potions teacher next year will be none other than Helen Potter."
Harry's eyes snapped to his daughter, who had stood up from the Ravenclaw table and was smiling around the room. She met his eyes and her gaze became slightly pleading; Harry shook his head lightly for a moment, and then smiled. He was a little shocked, but what could he do? She was an adult, and she could make her own decisions. Besides, he was happy for her, and happy that she would stay close to him.
After the smattering of applause had died down, Dumbledore continued. "And I must thank you, Helen, for graciously accepting the position. Now," he said, glancing toward McGonagall, "there is one other position—well, two, actually—that I needed to fill. Your Transfiguration teacher, Professor McGonagall, has decided that it is time for her to retire." There were some awws, and Harry made eye contact with her, but he wasn't really that surprised. He had been expecting it actually. She had been slowing down somewhat in the past few years. She nodded at him, and he smiled back.
"As you all know, she was my deputy, and we need to fill that spot as well as her position as Professor." He paused, looking at Harry. "If he will accept the position, I would be honored to have Professor Potter be my Deputy Headmaster."
Harry blinked. That was unexpected. He looked to Flitwick, whom he thought was the obvious choice, but the diminutive man merely smiled and clapped along with the rest. Harry stood and inclined his head toward the Headmaster. Of course he would be his Deputy. As the clapping subsided, he returned to his seat and looked down at the table. He just kept on getting surprised.
"That takes care of that, but we still have the matter of who will be teaching Transfiguration." There was a silence, but Harry still stared at the table, listening. "After much deliberation, and several candidates, Professors McGonagall, Flitwick, and myself reached a conclusion."
Another pause. Harry could sense Dumbledore's eyes on his head for some reason. Dumbledore continued. "Your new Transfiguration teacher will be Hermione Granger."
Harry's heart stopped. He raised his eyes slowly, passing over Dumbledore's expressionless face, and brought them across the Hall. There, in the open doorway, was twenty-nine-year-old Hermione Jane Granger.