So here we finally are. It's been a few years. I can't honestly believe that some of you have stayed with me from the very beginning (and I can barely believe that I have stayed with myself either, so…) Anyway, thank you thank you thank you to all of you, old readers and new. Here is a really long epilogue.
Harry dragged his feet. His dress robes felt too tight and too warm, and they itched. The arms were too long and too wide and they would only be in the way. He should have drunk another glass of water. His mouth was parched.
Ron was five steps ahead of him but now he stopped and gave Harry a look. "Oi, mate! We're going to miss dinner."
Harry swallowed. All of a sudden that did not sound like the worst thing ever.
But Ron was apparently of a differing opinion because he purposefully strode up to Harry and, quite forcefully, thwacked Harry on the shoulder. "Come on. What's wrong with you anyway?"
"Oh." Luna's big eyes were dreamy as she floated up to them. She had pinned her long hair up with a small gnome made out of felt and had sprinkled fake snow over the arrangement. "Harry's just nervous about seeing Professor Black," she said lightly. The overhead lights glinted in her silvery eyes.
Ron frowned at her. "Why should Harry be nervous about seeing Sirius? They see each other every day."
"Oh, yes, but then they are student and teacher. Tonight they are boyfriends."
Harry's cheeks burned. Nobody ever really said that out loud, and certainly not to his face. Mostly they just stared. And whispered. Behind his back.
Ron looked unimpressed but apparently he had nothing to add to that. They made their way down the winding stairs towards the Great Hall in silence and a mounting sense of panic (on Harry's part only, as far as he could tell). Garlands of evergreen had been looped around the banisters and the suits of armour had been polished to a high sheen. Heaps of dry snow lay on the staircases and a group of winter roses were throwing stray lines of holiday carols at Harry as he forced his body to obey, well, if not his own then Ron's, will (and stomach).
Harry's feet were numb. He kept his gaze trained on one of Luna's dangling star-shaped earrings. He was so focused on it that he completely missed the approaching newcomer. They collided only a few feet from the threshold to the Hall.
"Watch where you're going, Potter!"
"Sorry!" Harry blinked. "Draco?"
"The very one."
"What are you doing here?"
"I happen to be a student here, Potter. Like yourself." Draco was wearing deep sea green dress robes that looked infinitely more smart than the ones Harry had dug out from the bottom of his trunk some thirty minutes earlier.
"Tonight, I mean."
Draco gave him a pointed look. "Do you happen to know of any family of mine that might want me for Christmas? Or at all, really?"
Harry opened his mouth. Then closed it. Ron and Luna had already made it across the threshold, probably deciding that leaving Harry and Draco alone was the safer option. "I'm sorry, Draco."
Harry glanced over Draco's shoulder to scan what little of the Great Hall he could see through the doorway.
"Potter, are you all right?"
"Yeah, sure. Fine." Harry bit his lip. Sirius was not anywhere to be seen.
Blinking, Harry focused on Draco's face. "Sorry?"
"What's the matter with you?" Draco demanded.
"Nothing," said Harry, quickly. "I'm fine."
Draco's pale eyebrows lifted in disbelief. Then his face broke into a smirk and his shoulders dropped. "Ah, of course! It's Black. You two can be quite the official couple tonight. You and that godfather of yours that you are shagging. Or so I've been told."
Harry swallowed, desperately wishing Draco would keep his voice down.
But Draco only shook his head at him. "Look at you. You're going green, Potter. And it's not a colour that becomes you. You're Gryffindor, remember?"
"Right," Harry acknowledged with a strained nod. He was feeling a bit nauseous, now that Draco had mentioned it.
"Oh, come on, you're braver than this." Draco's deeply unsettling smirk was back in place. "Kiss him sometime during dinner, I dare you."
Harry's stomach twisted itself into a knot at the very idea. "I can't do that!" he hissed.
"No?" Draco eyed him. "No, you're probably right. I know I've said so before but you are pathetic…"
When Harry offered no response to that, Draco rolled his eyes and moved one step closer. This time he actually did lower his voice. "Listen, Harry, you're a right git sometimes but you're a decent bloke underneath. It'd be a shame if you died from self-inflicted suffocation." Then he grimaced. "Well, that's my piece of advice. It's yours to do whatever you like with."
In this one moment Harry wished he could stride into a room like Draco Malfoy. He was not at all sure that his entrance was even half as elegant. Still, he made it in one piece with his heart still beating and his wits mostly intact and that had to be counted as a victory.
The Great Hall glittered and glimmered and more students than Harry had expected seemed to be staying for Christmas dinner.
"Harry, my boy!" Horace Slughorn was waving a delicate glass at him. A thin wisp of smoke rose from whatever was in it. "Merry Christmas!"
Harry plastered a smile onto his face. He had both looked forward to and dreaded this dinner for days, and had never really succeeded in deciding if he wanted it to take place at all, but, despite this, it was oddly comforting to have a jovial Slughorn waddle up to him. If everything else was lost to him, at least it seemed that he could rely on this constant: there would always be at least one man with a massive moustache in his life.
"It is quite a surprise to see you here," Slughorn leaned in and added almost conspiratorially, "And the… the Whently boy, is it?"
"Weasley," Harry supplied.
"Weasley, of course!" Slughorn cleared his throat and took a sip of his drink.
"Ron is going home tomorrow."
Slughorn frowned. "Ron?"
"Ah! Of course, of course!" He nodded brusquely. Then he lowered his voice. "So, Harry, I must say it was a bit of a shocker, eh?" He nudged Harry in the side with a velvet-clad elbow. "Sirius Black... I would never have thought it! Heard the rumours of course but… You know how it is with rumours…."
His cheeks flushing, Harry muttered, "Yeah, well..."
"Nothing to be ashamed of!" Slughorn declared decisively. "Took us all by surprise, you did, but it's nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing at all!"
"Professor," Harry said sharply. Maybe too sharply but it was too late to take it back now. "I'm not ashamed."
He would rather that his Professor had never brought it up in the first place but apparently the imminent arrival of holidays was dissolving the etiquette and making people less tongue-tied. And he could feel it himself, too. For almost a full four months they had been careful: never touching too intimately when they had an audience, no innuendos, very few too-long-and-lingering looks. Even when Harry was practically aching for Sirius' attention he had managed to behave. But now the Christmas holidays were spreading out before them and they would finally have some time to themselves.
"Of course not, my boy! Anyway, always a bit curious about Sirius, I was." Slughorn patted him on the shoulder in a way Harry supposed was meant to be reassuring and then turned to one of the newly arrived students. "Hoy there! Banks is it not? I knew your grandfather..."
In the corner of his eye, Harry detected movement. There was Professor Sinistra, the Astronomy teacher, entering the Great Hall. And then followed Professor Sprout and Neville. Harry gladly exchanged a smile with Neville. He was one of the few people along with Hagrid who had accepted Harry's relationship with Sirius without a single rude question or a frown, and Harry was deeply grateful for that. And there, only a few steps behind Neville came Professor McGonagall and – Sirius.
Harry's heart took a leap for his throat. Sirius wore robes, smooth and dark, and smoky blue that set off his coal black hair. Harry's throat went dry and he cleared it without much success. Somewhere behind him, Slughorn was in the middle of some tale about some adventure he had apparently shared with Banks' grandfather and Harry wished that he would keep talking. That, at least, meant two pairs of eyes less on him.
Harry nervously shifted his weight from his heels to the balls of his feet. McGonagall and Sirius were trading a few words but he could tell his godfather's attention was divided. Sirius' eyes darted around the room and when they finally landed on Harry, a broad smile curved his lips. Then he must have said something to her because she found Harry over the rim of her spectacles. She gave him a small nod in greeting.
Sirius came closer. And closer. Finally, they were standing only a couple of feet apart. Tingle after tingle raced across Harry's skin as he regarded his godfather. Sirius' hair fell in soft ways around his face, but no matter how many times a day he washed he still looked slightly rugged.
His voice was quiet when he spoke, "I really want to kiss you, Harry."
Harry's knees went weak and there was nothing more on the face of this earth that he wanted as badly as for Sirius to kiss him, but McGonagall was calling for attention. Harry swallowed down his desires.
"After dinner?" he suggested. He had not spent proper time with Sirius for almost two weeks, having been too busy with homework and essays and Hermione-knew-what-else that the approaching official end of term brought with it.
Sirius seemed to gather his strength. "After dinner," he agreed. He licked his lips. "I just really want to kiss you."
Harry dared a small step closer. "I want to kiss you, too," he said quietly.
His godfather smiled. "Glad to hear it."
Sirius brushed their hands together. It was a fleeting touch and yet it managed to make Harry want to squirm with suppressed longing. "Can we eat really quickly?"
At that, Sirius laughed and threaded their fingers together.
Over by the table, Professor McGonagall cleared her throat audibly. "Professor Black, if you and Mr Potter would be so kind as to join us perhaps we might get started?"
Harry expected another onset of blushing but it seemed that, at last, he had run out of blood willing to make the extra trip to his face for the billionth time since last summer. He was, however, very conscious of Sirius' hand landing in the small of his back to smoothly steer him towards the only empty chairs remaining but he lived through the journey there. The weight of eyes, round with badly hidden curiosity, on them was heavy but he avoided to look at anyone in particular as he sat down.
After the initial surprise had waned, conversation picked up around the table and Harry relaxed somewhat. He had Sirius to his right and a small boy to his left, a second-year Hufflepuff whose wide eyes kept returning to the scar on Harry's forehead. The boy seemed too intimidated to speak to him and so Harry focused on Neville who was seated opposite him; it took nearly all of his determination not to touch Sirius.
"I'll be going home tomorrow," Neville was saying. "The mandrake Professor Sprout gave me to care for has grown over five inches since mid-October. It's been rather cantankerous but we think it'll manage on its own over the holidays. I'll be visiting my parents of course."
Harry smiled at the pride in Neville's voice. After all, it was not that long ago that their horrible fate had been their son's most closely guarded secret.
But by the time they were halfway through dessert, Harry was practically writhing in his seat. He had barely exchanged a word with Sirius and that had probably been wise but now his godfather sat back in his chair and a hand landed on Harry's thigh and gave a small squeeze. When Sirius caught his eye, there was so much longing there that Harry's throat suddenly grew quite tight.
Sirius' smile was soft. "I miss you," he murmured.
Harry covered the hand on his thigh with his own. He wanted to say something but could not really think of anything.
"Aha!" boomed Slughorn a few seats away. "Had one myself, actually! Several years ago, of course, but you would never have believed…"
Harry leaned in and kissed Sirius.
Everything went very still. Sirius' lips were soft and warm and so beautifully familiar that Harry's heart almost broke in two. It was very chaste. He added the smallest amount of pressure imaginable and Sirius barely responded at first. Then Harry felt him smile.
They drew apart to a heavy silence that seemed to be wanting to burst the very walls of the Hall. Then somebody sniggered. Harry looked up just in time to see Draco Malfoy turn a deathly cold stare at a Slytherin fourth-year, who immediately blanched and shut his mouth.
With his head spinning Harry caught Draco's eye. The blonde shrugged, and then smiled. And if Harry was not deceiving himself there was a fair bit of warmth in that smile.
He approached her where she was standing underneath one of the floating Christmas trees, staring up at it without blinking. "Um, Luna?"
"Uh... I'm sorry to interrupt."
She slowly lowered her gaze. "Don't worry. They'll still be there when we've finished talking."
"Right." Harry dragged his fingers through his hair. "Listen..."
"That's new," she observed casually, her wide eyes following the progress of his hand.
"Uh, what is?"
"That thing you just did. I hadn't thought about it before but I can see it now."
He frowned. "You can see… what exactly?"
She smiled. "Before, you always used to flatten your fringe, Harry. Probably because you wanted to hide your scar. But now you are pushing your hair back." Her smile deepened. "It means you're not afraid anymore."
Harry self-consciously lowered his hand, and looked at it, too. "You're right," he said, somewhat taken aback.
Luna only continued to smile.
"So," Harry picked up where he thought he might have left off. "Listen, I just wanted to thank you for being so accepting of me and Sirius… and all."
"Oh, that's quite all right," she said. "You have always accepted me. Not everybody does."
Looking into her eyes, Harry felt a twinge near his heart. "They should, Luna," he said quietly. "They really should."
Luna tilted her head little to the side. "You're very kind, Harry." Then she went back to staring up at the Christmas trees.
"So… are you going anywhere for the holidays?"
"No," she said loftily, after a moment.
He nodded. "Me neither. Well, we might go back to the house for a couple of days to make sure Kreacher is managing but otherwise we'll be staying here."
"You're not going with Ron to his house."
"No, not this year. It's their first Christmas without Fred so they're not really celebrating. And Hermione is with her parents and… Sirius and I… well…"
"Everyone is still a bit unsure how to act around you and Sirius," she said, the snow in her hair gleaming gently as she turned back to look at him.
"Yeah. I guess…"
"You just have to give them some time to adjust. Sometimes people need that." She smiled. "Now you should go and join him. He's waiting for you."
They stood for a moment in silence. Then Harry cleared his throat. "Yeah, so, if you want to hang out someday…?"
"Maybe. I'm quite busy actually."
"OK. Just… you know."
She let out a small sigh and tipped her head to the side again. Then she did what he least of all expected. She gave him a quick hug. "Thank you, Harry."
Sirius was waiting for him by the doors. "All done?"
"Yeah, I'll see Ron tomorrow before he leaves."
Harry looked back over his shoulder. The crowd was thinning somewhat but the candles were still burning and the glitter was still glittering. Sirius stepped up close to him. "Never thought I'd see this again."
Harry reached for his hand. "I'm really happy you did."
"So am I, Harry, more than you could ever know."
Sirius' rooms were only a short walk away. Harry had seen the inside of them more than once during these past months but he had never spent the night. It had not been easy but they had both submitted to the rules outlined by Professor McGonagall last summer. Now Sirius drew him inside and locked the door behind them.
When that was done they were left staring at one another. Sirius finally let out a laugh. "Bloody hell, it feels like the first time." He dragged his hands through his hair.
Harry grinned. "Now you know how I felt then."
But his godfather only shook his head. "You're a brave man, Harry Potter."
Harry dearly hoped that it did not show just how much he liked it when Sirius called him 'man'. He was always just a tiny bit scared that Sirius would wake up one day and realise that Harry was still in a school uniform, even if he age-wise should have graduated by now.
There was a humble fire warming the small office but the bedroom was dark and rather chilly. Harry watched as Sirius got the fire going in there also and then proceeded to cover up the painting of the solemn young wizard who had been head of the Herbology department at Hogwarts some 150 years earlier. At first there was some muttering and grumbling from behind the sheet but it died down fairly quickly. It had not been long after term began in September that they had learnt – all three of them – that certain matters were better kept between Harry and Sirius only.
"So, are you done with all the assignments and essays now?"
Harry plopped down onto the bed. "Yeah. Slughorn's was the worst, actually."
Sirius shot him a grin over his shoulder. "He said something about that… Seemed really pleased with himself after his last class."
"I believe you," said Harry, quickly. "Honestly, if Hermione hadn't been listening in class we wouldn't have had an idea of where even to begin…" They had been up three nights in a row, he and Ron, poring over their books in vain until Hermione finally had taken pity on them. "I mean, north Argentinian shadow magic in the countryside during the early 16th century?"
Sirius joined him by the bedside, sliding out of his robes. Underneath he wore a plain shirt and black trousers. "So you'll get a Troll?"
"No," Harry looked up at him, doing his best to glare. It proved rather difficult with Sirius all of a sudden being so very much… well, in front of him, and with the door locked and them finally being alone. "I think I'll pass."
"Good for you, Mr Potter." Sirius smirked. "As for myself, I have yet to grade you in Magical Duelling…"
This time it was easier. Harry raised an eyebrow up at him. "You're saying I might not pass?"
"Oh…" Sirius said loftily, the tip of a forefinger running down Harry's jaw. "I think you're Acceptable."
Harry turned his head, automatically, seeking more of that touch. Sirius' fingers wove themselves into his hair. Swallowing, Harry realised with a spark of excitement, that he was in a perfect position to…
He was still a bit unused to taking charge. Sirius' hips were right there in front of him and now Harry placed his hands on them. He heard his godfather's breath catch as he leaned in and placed a kiss on the fabric covering Sirius' crotch up. His throat felt a little tighter as a flicker of the old apprehension darted through his stomach. For the life of him he could not figure out why he was still nervous about these things but when Sirius's hand gently cupped the back of his head and guided him closer Harry decided that it was pointless to overthink matters.
He felt Sirius harden against his cheek. With hands that were remarkably steady considering what he was about to do Harry opened his fly and trailed a fingertip down the cotton-encased length. Above him, Sirius' breathing was deepening and as Harry pushed his godfather's trousers down he thought he heard a soft moan. Rallying his courage, Harry proceeded with the briefs and soon had his godfather's thickening cock jutting out before him. Smiling, Harry took it by the base and offered a first tentative kiss to the rounded head.
"Fuck…" Sirius' hold on the back of his head strengthened. "It feels like…"
Harry took him into his mouth and Sirius' words dissolved into a groan. Closing his eyes, Harry felt his godfather fill him and he sucked. After the initial wave of sensation Sirius began rocking against him, helping him set the rhythm.
"Shit… Feels like… like fucking ages… ago…"
It did. Harry used his tongue to push Sirius' cock to the roof of his mouth, gently allowing his teeth to scrape against it. He was duly rewarded by a new moan and fingers pressing into the nape of his neck. He let his godfather pull almost all the way out and then, teetering on the edge of urgency, slide inside again. It was difficult to breathe properly so he pulled back a little and stole a moment to remove his glasses, dropping them onto the bed beside him. With the room blurred around him it was somehow easier. He took a new hold on Sirius' cock and angled it to lick a long stripe along the underside. To his godfather's apparent pleasure, he then took him inside his mouth again and sucked as hard as he dared. Sirius' growl reverberated through him and a heartbeat later he felt the chilly night air encase him as his clothes were Vanished.
"Want to fuck you, Harry." Sirius slid out of his mouth. "Let me fuck you…"
They made it onto the bed, Sirius already turning Harry over onto his belly and draping himself over him. Questing fingers walked between his buttocks and Harry heard a moan of his own spill across the pillow. Sucking his godfather off was a challenge that usually demanded most of his concentration and consequently he was only half hard himself but Sirius was quickly helping matters along.
"Accio lube," he heard Sirius mutter and a moment's shuffling followed before those same fingers returned, wet and slick.
The first intrusion made Harry want to curl into himself. Sirius' mouth was on his neck, leaving kisses in clusters. "OK?"
"Yeah…" Harry twisted his head. Sirius was so close he could see him well enough. "More."
His godfather's eyes were clouded over, or maybe that was Harry's less than perfect vision. When the second finger joined the first Sirius' bit his lower lip. "You're so tight, love. So tight…"
They met in a disjointed kiss when Sirius added a third finger.
Harry pushed into the mattress, needing the friction as his godfather worked his body into submission. He was fairly sure he was going to come even without Sirius inside him if they carried on like this. "Please, now…"
Sirius' fingers were gone in an instant. The welcome weight of his godfather on top of him made Harry dizzy with pleasure. He felt his arse cheeks being pushed apart and then, in a smooth move, the blunt head of Sirius' cock was pushing its way into him.
Tiny stars swam in the night as Sirius sank deeper and deeper inside. Harry could do nothing but stretch out and relax as much as possible. Sirius found one of his hands and laced their fingers together.
"Love this…" His godfather's voice was hoarse against his cheek. "Love being inside you… Love you."
Harry lifted his hips a fraction and felt the answer in the way Sirius plastered himself to him. A hungry mouth was on his neck now and Harry clenched his inner muscles and a shiver raced through him. When his godfather finally began moving Harry was sure he was breaking apart from the sheer brilliance of it all.
Deeper and deeper and deeper. Harry tried to move, too, giving back some of what he got as Sirius thrust into him. He was not sure if he was even breathing as they chased the energy that was building between them; even as Harry rubbed himself against the bed, Sirius filled him so completely that there was no space left for air. His release was so sudden that he could not help the cry that escaped him.
Sirius pushed Harry's right leg to an angle, rising, sinking down, sheathing himself so deep that it should be impossible. He kept at it even as Harry squirmed and shuddered through his release and the sweat that slicked their skin made the friction between them almost unbearable. Harry was panting, sure he could take no more when Sirius, to his utmost relief and great disappointment, also came, somewhere in that maddening heat.
His godfather buried his face in Harry's hair and his breath was scorching, his hold on Harry's hand on the verge of painful. They lay panting, shivering and trembling, with Sirius' cock jerking helplessly inside Harry, until, at last, it was over.
"Fucking hell…" Sirius pressed a kiss into Harry's neck. "Shit… fuck."
Harry smiled faintly into his pillow. "That was…"
When he did not finish, Sirius did it for him. "Bloody amazing, 'twas what it was."
They slowly disentangled. Sirius found his glasses for him and pushed them onto Harry's nose. "Should get cleaned up, I suppose."
But Harry shook his head. He was sore and covered in drying sweat and both his own and Sirius' release but he had absolutely no desire to bathe. "Cleaning charm?" he suggested instead.
Sirius regarded him for a moment before he grinned. A quick swipe of his wand got them both, and the sheets, into a fairly decent state. "Get into bed then," he smiled. "Properly, that is."
When they were finally settled, Sirius on his back, half lying down, half sitting against the headboard, and with Harry against his chest with the covers pulled up to his shoulders, the peace of the winter night began lowering itself around them. The fire crackled lazily and outside the windows fat snowflakes were drifting.
Where the thought came from, Harry had no idea. "I want to go somewhere," he heard himself saying. "Not now, but after school is over. This summer."
"Yeah?" Sirius' stubble rasped his skin when his godfather leaned down to place kiss on his forehead. "Where?"
"I don't know," Harry admitted. "Just somewhere." He let his thoughts wander. "Charlie is going back to his dragon reserve in Romania in May… Might be fun to go and see him."
Sirius made a noise between a hum and a huff. His hand found Harry's under the covers and his voice sounded oddly strained. "Well… As long as you come back."
Harry twisted around in his arms. For a moment – and it was probably cruel but he could not help himself – he looked at his godfather, cherishing that brittle façade of strength covering up the disappointment-bordering-on-distress in the grey eyes. "I want you to come, too."
For a fleeting moment there was a crease between Sirius' dark brows but then his face cleared. His lips curved into a smile even as he, Harry suspected, did his best to appear indifferent. "Oh, well, in that case Romania sounds perfect."
But this bout of sudden glee was gone almost as soon as it had come and his free hand came to cup Harry's cheek. "You're free, you know," he said quietly. "I won't hold you back, Harry. I'm not your… I…" The pad of his thumb dragged across Harry's lower lip. "I don't own you."
Sirius' face was sombre and that crease on his forehead returned. "I've been thinking, too. About the future." He must have sensed the immediate pang of fear in Harry because he flashed a quick smile. "Not like that. Come here…"
Harry found his way into his embrace again and Sirius dropped a kiss into his hair. There was a moment of heavy silence during which Harry's heart picked up an irregular rhythm before Sirius continued.
"I like it here. I know it's what no one, least of all myself, expected but I enjoy teaching… I think I'm pretty good at it, too…"
"You are," Harry told him. Then he bit away a smile. "Well, at least you're inspired."
He earned himself a slap on the shoulder for that. "You will get a D for Dreadful, Potter, if you don't watch your tongue. Anyway, I'm saying that I'm, well, I'm happy here, Harry." His voice had turned serious again, and he spoke very softly. "I never thought… After everything. Except for you, that is, I never thought I'd be…"
Harry swallowed. He pressed a kiss into Sirius' skin, just over his heart.
"So." Sirius cleared his throat. "I've been thinking. I do realise, Harry, that you are a fair bit younger and the world has changed and you can do anything you want. If you want to travel or… Or whatever, I don't ever want to hold you back. I need you to be happy, too." He paused. "But I… If there's a chance, even after you've graduated, that Minerva would choose to make Professor of Magical Duelling a permanent position, I would like to stay on as a teacher here."
Something that Harry had no name for was creeping over him. It was not dread or anxiety or anything like that but it made him feel just a little insecure. "I think that's a great idea," he forced out, because he should. Truth be told, he had no idea what he wanted to do when he finally graduated and that thought was frightening indeed.
Sirius's palm ran down his arm, warm and comforting. "And," he continued, "I've been thinking about you. I don't presume to know what you want, Harry, but I know you're happy here, too. I see it in you."
Harry closed his eyes. These past months had been everything he had dreamed and feared. Being back at Hogwarts had been the best and the strangest thing. It was familiar and different, fun and scary. (Even though the scary part mostly was due to the fact that he was in a not-so-secret intimate relationship with one of his teachers who was still considered to be a deranged criminal by some. Not to mention dead.) But Sirius was slowly earning the respect of more and more of Harry's fellow students and on some days it was as if all was truly well. As if everybody was on the mend. Even when it was three o'clock in the morning and parchments were lying in heaps around himself and Ron in the common room and Harry had ink blotches all over his hands.
But it was Harry and Ron, like it had always been. And then over breakfast Hermione would scold them endlessly but it was familiar and even strangely comforting. And if it was an especially good day, Ginny would plop down beside them and grin as if Harry had never broken her heart and her brother had never died.
And over by the teachers' table Sirius would be sipping his coffee, grey eyes filled with love and longing and Harry's heart would do backflips until he could no longer think straight (which, as Sirius had pointed out, was only a good thing).
"Yeah," he conceded, finally. "I am."
"I suspect there will be some changes among the staff come next autumn," Sirius said quietly, and very, very slowly, as if he was choosing his words carefully. "Horace spent the first weeks of term endlessly talking about retirement but now he's grown rather silent on the subject. From what I understand he took on Dark Arts very reluctantly as McGonagall needed somebody she could trust… But, if he wants to stay, I think it's safe to assume that he'd switch from Dark Arts to Potions again in a heartbeat. Which means…" He left a new kiss in Harry's hair. "Which means that the position as Darks Arts Professor would open up, and if you ask me I could think of no one better…"
It took him a moment to fully grasp what his godfather was saying. Frowning, he pushed himself to sit. "But I couldn't teach…"
Sirius was sporting a peculiar half-smile. "No?"
"No! I wouldn't know what to do."
"Are you sure?"
Harry closed his mouth. He recalled Professor McGonagall at Grimmauld Place and how she had questioned him about Dumbledore's Army. He knew that he had enjoyed his work with his friends and students there, but that had been something entirely different.
"I'm not qualified," he said, finally, in an effort to quench the timid spark of building excitement that shot though his breast. Because, really, it was silly. He could never be a Professor at Hogwarts.
Or could he?
Sirius' smile transformed into a grin. "And I am?" He reached out and gently brushed his knuckles down Harry's cheek. "Just think about it, yeah? It's not like anything's set in stone. Far from it, to be honest."
Outside their window the snow was falling heavier. In a few days' time Hagrid would return from his trip to Beauxbatons and then he and Harry and Sirius would go together to Eeylops. It had been altogether Harry's idea that Sirius' Christmas present for him could be a new owl but nevertheless the upcoming trip made him uneasy. He pushed the thought away.
The fire had dwindled a little but still cast an orange glow over the wood panelling. The bedroom was warm now and all around him the castle spread out. Welcoming and safe. The place where Harry always seemed to be at his happiest.
He grinned inwardly at that. It looked like the Prophet had been right about something, after all.
Sirius was still smiling. "You are thinking about it."
"Listen, Harry… All I know is that I want to be with you, whatever that entails. You are the reason I'm here. You're the reason I'm alive."
Harry straddled him, ran his palms up his godfather's chest and watched him shiver.
Harry leaned in and kissed him.