August 1999

Harry liked Potter Manor more than he would ever like Grimmauld Place. Merlin knew that even the name sounded less miserable. Although the one thing that still gave him a heart attack...

Pop! "Master Harry be's having a letter!"

A series of curses tumbled out of Harry's mouth as he nearly toppled out of his office chair in surprise.

"Shit, Tinky! We have got to come up with a better system for that!"

"Tinky is sorry sirs! Tinky is not meaning to upset Master! Tinky is sorry sorry sorry!" Tinky wailed, simultaneously tugging on her ears and bunching up her uniform in her fist. Harry sighed.

"No Tinky, it's not your fault. Come on, stop tugging like that. I just need to come up with something is all, it's not your fault. Calm down Tinky." He soothed, lightly pulling her hands away from their tugging and fisting. The little house-elf was still sniffling, but now he could hear her muttering words like "kind," "generous," and "gracious" frantically under her breath as she bowed, left the letter on his desk, and popped away. When would the house-elves get used to him? Would they ever? He hoped so, the constant panicking was beyond tedious.

Which, he immediately realized, sounded callous. But whatever, it's not like anyone heard the thought. No harm done.

Harry turned back to his desk, eying the Longbottom crest stamped into the red wax sealing the letter. Neville then. It had been getting around the time Harry was expecting something from him.

Harry,

I'm sorry this took so long, preparing for the new year is driving me mad! There's so much to do, I hardly get any time to eat and sleep, let alone write correspondence, no matter how much I may like to.

He chuckled, reading through the rest of the letter. He could tell from the pages that Neville was a happy kind of busy, thrilled for his first year as Herbology Professor. Harry hardly expected anything less, Neville loved Herbology, and Harry knew he'd be a great teacher. Neville was always patient and kind, but could be stern if he needed to be. He'd be fabulous, students would flourish under his teachings just like plants did his well-callused fingers.

Luckily, Harry found himself with more free time than his friend. He'd finally finished taking care of all the backed-up business he needed to take care of. Well, most of it. All of his official business was taken care of, all the things that had to do with his duties and money. He'd also taken care of his little house-elf problem for the most part. The poor things were still pretty jumpy (which was understandable, they'd been left to their own devices for almost two decades), but he and Kreacher were both working on that. Kreacher, for all his grousing, was actually a really good Head Elf (as the house-elves who ran households were generally called), and things almost always ran smoothly.

The only things he hadn't finished taking care of was going through all the things he owned, and finishing all the standard schooling he wanted to have down. While all his properties were in good condition, thanks to Kreacher's new leadership, Harry hadn't had the time to visit them all. And he'd caught up on reviewing all of the things taught at Hogwarts and some Occlumency, but his shields weren't as strong as he'd like, and his Muggle schooling was still in the high school years.

He wasn't about to worry too much about it though. He figured he was learning at a pretty impressive pace, and that had been when he'd been busy with his financial and business affairs. Now that he had so much more free time, Harry figured he will have learned everything he feels he needs to within the next few months. Then he can move on to all the things he wants to learn, and things that have caught his interest. He's looking forward to that.

He leaned back in his desk chair, briefly wishing that it swiveled. Maybe he should go shopping for a new one in a Muggle furniture store? His back was slightly sore from having to lean forward to mark up the latest report he'd been given from Stars United, a company he owned a significant share of and was thus part of a Board that advised the CEO and generally liked to push their weight around. Really, Harry just wanted to keep some (most) of those idiots from sinking the value of his investment in the company.

He admired the view from the large windows that his desk faced. The sky was a beautiful mixture of purples and pinks and golds as the sun set, and the thought flitted across his mind that he should go flying sometime soon. Harry wanted to touch that sky.

A sudden idea sprang into his mind, and he straightened from his slightly slouched position. "Kreacher!"

"Yes, Master Harry," Kreacher mumbled after the standard pop!

"Have all the house-elves send ahead a chiming bell – or just the sound of one really – before they pop in to tell me something. No need for them to do it when I've called for them, but have them do it in other situations. They've been giving me so many goddamn heart-attacks I feel like an old man." He muttered the last bit, and Kreacher grinned widely.

"Yes Master," his voice was full of amusement before he popped away, and Harry grumbled a bit before he leaned back in his chair, grabbing A Guide to Advanced Statistics from his desk. He began where he left off, a sigh of relief escaping him.

Another thing crossed off his everlasting to-do list.

A/N: I know, I know. It should be longer, especially since it took me so long to update. But every time I tried expanding it it got all messed up! We'll see another time jump next chapter, probably at least a year.