Disclaimer: I own nothing, sadly.
This would not do.
It was ridiculous, really.
Harry rubbed his forehead and took off his glasses, squinting at the signature at the bottom of the letter. He looked carefully at the seal on the envelope.
It really was from her – he could remember that hated script anywhere, especially all over his Transfiguration essays.
The seal. Well, that had been emblazoned in his mind since his first letter some seven years ago.
Harry leaned back in the kitchen chair and stared blankly at the fireplace. He wondered, vaguely, if McGonagall had lost her mind. Given the recent events, it wouldn't be an altogether absurd explanation for this. This…ridiculous thing.
Harry put his glasses back on and smoothed the parchment out on the table. He read for the umpteenth time:
Dear Mr. Potter,
I hope this letter finds you well and rested after the summer holidays. September is not but three weeks away and students will be back before we know it. Hogwarts is looking fine, although some scars remain.
I write to you not as a professor but hopefully as a colleague. The position of professor for Defense Against the Dark Arts is open. Please consider it.
Headmistress of Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry
Harry shook his head. Please consider it. As if this had been mentioned before. As if he and McGonagall had discussed this over tea. And three weeks notice. Harry wasn't sure what to make of all this.
Please consider it.
Consider it. Was he considering it? Harry frowned; he didn't think so. He had missed his seventh year entirely, had even failed to take his N.E.W.T.s (though nobody blamed him for it). He was, officially, a drop out from Hogwarts. And now he was being asked to teach. Teach students who were nearly as old as he.
Harry stood up abruptly and walked up from the kitchen to the front door of Grimmauld Place. Once on the stoop, he spun quickly and Disapparated, letter in hand.
"What?" Hermione nearly shrieked, her eyes wide. The cup of tea she was holding wobbled precariously.
It was later in the evening, after an enormous meal provided by Molly Weasley. Nearly everyone had been there; Percy sat uncertainly with his father, talking mostly in low undertones, and Fleur helped Mrs. Weasley in the kitchen (causing both Hermione and Ginny's eyebrows to rise). Bill and George talked Quidditch and business. It had been too long since Harry had seen all the Weasleys together, for his summer holiday had been anything but relaxing.
After dinner the three retreated to Ron's room. Harry shut the door and cast a silencing spell, earning curious looks from Ron and Hermione.
"Mate, I don't think-"
"Read this," Harry said, pushing the letter into Ron's hands. Frowning at Harry, Ron unfolded the parchment and read, Hermione peering over his shoulder.
A moment passed, and then-
"Harry, is this a joke?"
"Wait, Ron, I'm not done reading-" and Hermione snatched the letter from Ron's limp hands.
"Blimey, Harry, this is…this is-"
"What?" Hermione shrieked. After a moment she put her tea down on the nightstand and read the note again and again. "She wants you to teach?"
"But you can't, you're – we didn't finish school, you haven't taken N.E.W.T.s."
"I know, Hermione."
"But why Harry? No offense," Ron said, quickly shooting Harry a look. "Why didn't Hermione get asked?"
"I can't teach Defense," Hermione said, frowning. "I mean, not as well as Harry." She paused for a moment, considering. "You should do it."
"What?" Now it was Harry and Ron asking in unison.
"This has got to be a joke," Ron said again.
"No, it'd be a joke for McGonagall to ask anyone else. Obviously she'd ask Harry."
"But I can't teach."
"Of course you can."
"You taught Dumbledore's Army," Ron pointed out.
"But that was – that wasn't real teaching. I wasn't a professor. If I messed up it wasn't a big deal."
"But you never messed up. You were really good at it."
Harry scowled at the two of them, then sat heavily on the nearest bed. "Nobody will listen to me. I'm their age."
"Right, because, aside from you being older than them, there's absolutely nothing respectable about you," Ron said sarcastically, then charmed a pillow to wallop Harry repeatedly over the head.
Harry sighed, flopped backwards, and rolled over so that the pillow pummeled him on his back.
"Think about it Harry," Hermione said, her voice calming and logical. "What better way to fight against the dark arts than by teaching a whole school of kids properly? Aurors are great, they do marvelous work. But think about how much better prepared we could have been had we all been in the D.A."
Fred was in the D.A., Harry wanted to say, but kept himself from speaking. He pushed those thoughts angrily away.
"Trelawney will swoon when she hears you're coming. She'll want to read your palms nightly, I'll bet."
"Shut it," Harry growled, grabbed the pillow that was still smacking him, and threw it at Ron's head.
Harry had slept at the Burrow, battling out his decision with Ron and Hermione until late in the night. He awoke the next morning groggy and blinking the sun out of his eyes. Looking to his right, he saw Ron and Hermione had fallen asleep on the same bed, the latter hanging halfway off due of Ron's sheer size.
Harry tiptoed out the door and rounded the corner and smacked straight into Ginny Weasley.
"Oh – ow, sorry, Ginny," Harry said, rubbing his chin where it collided with her forehead.
"Morning Harry," she said. Her freckles stretched when she smiled. "Up early I see."
"What time is it?"
Harry nodded and stood, staring at the wall and the ceiling and the floor – anywhere but at her. He remembered all too clearly the birthday kiss last summer; he thought about it at night, remembered the way her hair felt. And since then…well, much had happened, he supposed. After the battle she had come home for a week for Fred's funeral, but Harry spent much of his summer testifying at the Ministry. Later, at the end of June, when Hogwarts students had summer holiday, Harry managed to expertly avoid her.
He couldn't for the life of him figure out why the thought of talking to Ginny made him so nervous.
And there he stood now, dumbly in his pajamas, with Ginny in front of him holding a large basket of wet clothes.
"Can I get by now?"
Harry jumped and nodded, stepping to the side. And then, before thinking – "Let me help," he said, and took the basket from her.
Damn, he thought, following her down the stairs.
They padded out the back door and onto the dewy grass. The bottom of his trousers soaked up the moisture quickly but he plodded on after her, wishing the clothes could just hang themselves. They reached the clothesline and Harry quickly began putting the clothes up with his wand.
"Hey," Ginny said, grabbing his wrist and drawing his wand down. Harry's heart skipped. "Not fair. I can't do magic yet." She opened her other hand and revealed a pile of Muggle clothespins.
"You could let me do these, you know."
"I could," she said, shrugging. Harry expected her to say more, but Ginny started hanging the clothes instead. Harry followed her lead and began pinning a sheet. He tried very hard – and failed - not to think about the fact that they were completely hidden from the Burrow. Harry tried very hard – and failed again – to not look at Ginny. When he glanced to his side, Ginny was stretching up on her tiptoes to hang a shirt, her T-shirt rising to reveal a sliver of smooth skin.
Harry clipped his finger in a clothespin.
"Ready for Quidditch?" Harry forced himself to say.
"Can't wait. We didn't get to play last year."
"You could get Captain."
She pushed her hair out of her face. "Maybe. What about you, what are you doing this year?"
Her eyes were wide and brown and stared directly into Harry's. Few people did that these days.
"Er, well," Harry started. He didn't know what made him do it, and later he would think of this moment as one of the most idiotic decisions of his life. Harry would blame it on Ginny's hair, how it glinted in the sunshine, and how much it made him want to see it everyday. "I think I'm going to teach…at Hogwarts."
"Sorry?" Ginny asked, letting a clothespin snap violently on a pink shirt.
Harry stood silently for a moment, realizing what he had just done. And how he could not take it back, could not play it off as a joke. He cleared his throat.
"McGonagall owled me yesterday. Wants me to teach Defense."
"That's – wow! That's great Harry," Ginny said, her eyebrows hidden under her hair. "Have you said yes?"
"But you will?"
Harry searched her face for anything – any slight trace of happiness, of hope, of desire. He found it blank, if not a little bemused. He sighed, knowing it was stupid for him to expect her to come crashing back into his arms at a moment's notice. But the way the sun hit her hair-
"Yeah." He met her dark eyes. "I'll tell McGonagall yes."
Two things I am taking liberty with: one is that Harry did get his Apparition license sometime this summer, the other is that Molly hangs laundry in a Muggle fashion (which may or may not be inaccurate).
Let me know what you think! Chapter two will arrive soon.