A/N: Still not JK, folks, sorry. As always, please R&R!
Chapter 3: Legs
As a firm knock resounded at the front door, Rubeus Hagrid was tempted to break into a grin. Hoisting himself to his feet, he ran a lined hand hastily through his unkept hair. He seldom got visitors these days, and was determined to make a good impression. Fang began barking from his basket in the corner, but did not bolt to the door, tail wagging, as he once had. Lazy mutt, Hagrid thought fondly. Time had begun to take its toll on the both of them. Just the other day, while grooming the boarhound, he had discovered a patch of grey hair on his friend's leg.
Striding to the door, he opened it to reveal a severe looking witch standing on his front doorstep. Although the years had begun to take their toll on her, Hagrid knew that Minerva McGonagall was just as capable of a teacher as she had been during his own schooling. He inclined his head slightly.
"Mornin' Headmistress. Would you care to step inside?" McGonagall gave him one of her rare smiles.
"That would be wonderful, Hagrid, thank you." She moved across the threshold briskly, handed Hagrid her overcoat, and looked around the hut for a moment, still smiling.
"You have done a wonderful job of rebuilding since the Battle of Hogwarts. However, I do not understand why you chose to refuse our offer of magical assistance." Hagrid bowed his head modestly.
"Well, yeh know, Headmistress, it was jus' somethin' to keep this ol' head of mine busy." McGonagall smiled understandingly, and laid her hand on one broad shoulder.
"You missed them, didn't you? Potter and his friends? I saw that look on your face when you first opened the door. You were hoping that it was them, weren't you?" Hagrid smiled sadly.
"Ah remember 'ow Harry was when ah firs' met him, bless him. So curious, and bold. Who could have ever dreamed wha' he would go on to do. Ah was the one who firs' told him about all of it, you know. Abou' You-Know-Who, abou' his parents, an' all that. Sometimes, when things were lookin' bad for 'im, I blamed myself. Ah remember, in Azkaban…" His voice trailed off before he resumed speaking.
"Ah wonder what might 'ave happened if he never knew tha' he was a wizard. Ah did my best by him, that ah did, but ah could never replace Lily an' James." He hiccoughed involuntarily, choking back a sob. McGonagall patted his shoulder.
"I can think of no one else who might have been a better mentor to Potter, Hagrid." Hagrid was gazing off into space, smiling fondly.
"Ah remember, las' year, tha' was the hardest part of everythin' for me. Not knowin' where Harry was, not knowin' if he was safe. Then, that night in the Forest…" He shook his head grimly.
"I love the Forest. Always have, since ah was a boy. But, since tha' night, ah've not bin able to go back. Too many memories." McGonagall nodded solemnly.
"I understand why you chose to resign as Care of Magical Creatures professor, Hagrid. However, I can't help but worry about you. The entire staff worries about you. I have not seen you since the wedding. Your gift to the Potters was truly fine." Hagrid nodded in acknowledgement.
"Loyal to the death, boarhoun's are, an' great guard dogs to boot. Ah had some trouble coming by that puppy, though. They 'aven't been bred so much, lately." McGonagall smiled again.
"Potter and Miss Weasley loved it, I must say." Hagrid returned the smile.
"Well, ah had considered givin' 'em the last Blast Ended Skrewt, bu' the poor thing went an' blew itself up before the wedding." They both laughed before McGonagall cleared her throat.
"Hagrid, I have been going through many of Professor Dumbledore's papers as of late, which is the real reason why I am here this morning. Apparently, unknown to myself and the rest of the staff, Albus was tutoring you in private for three years prior to his death, since shortly after you were cleared of the whole Chamber affair. It is my understanding that you wished to become a fully trained wizard, having missed much of your formal education due to circumstances outside of your control." She stared over her spectacles at him, and Hagrid felt slightly belittled, in spite of his size.
"Thus, I feel obliged to ask why you did not choose to approach me in the wake of that tragedy. Do you not wish to continue with your education?" Hagrid fumbled to find the correct words.
"No…well, yes, Professor, of course ah do! It jus'…well, it jus' didn' seem right, you know? Grea' man, Dumbledore…ah jus' didn' think tha'…well…" McGonagall nodded in understanding.
"You didn't think that anyone else would be willing to teach you?" Hagrid nodded, and she smiled for the third time.
"Well, if we get started now, then you should be able to finish by the time that the Potter child is christened." Hagrid raised his eyebrows incredulously.
"Headmistress…surely, ya don' mean…" McGonagall nodded.
"Yes, I do. Now, we must arrange a schedule for lessons. I will need to send an owl to the Ministry to arrange for the appointment of a NEWT examiner, although that will surely not be a problem. When would you like to get started?" Hagrid smiled broadly.
"As soon as possible, 'eadmistress!" McGonagall pursed her lips thoughtfully.
"Of course, Hagrid, but on one condition. There will be no more skulking in your cabin on feast nights, and no more concealing yourself from the world. You played a key role in the Battle of Hogwarts, not to mention a pivotal role in the life of the Boy Who Lived. If you were half so proud of yourself as others are of you, then I daresay that you will be a great wizard yet. Your lessons will be taken in my office. I daresay that Professor Dumbledore's portrait will have a thing or two to say to one of his most trustworthy and oldest friends. Now, come. There is no time to waste." The pair strolled towards the door as Minerva McGonagall pulled on her coat again.
"Now, I understand that your Animagus is a boarhound, correct…"