As July ended Harry, Ron and Neville began to feel very accomplished and more confident in their Auror abilities. Umbridge had been captured, tried and sentenced to life in Azkaban. Proudfoot had taken the three of them to hunt down Rowle using the files Harry had recovered from Umbridge’s house; they had succeeded in capturing him but not after he had fired several killing curses in their direction. Harry ended up punching him in the face in order to subdue him. They hadn’t however, managed to find the Lestrange brothers. Neville began increasingly agitated with every passing moment.
“You’re coming around?” Ron asked a bleary eyed Harry one morning in late July. “To mum’s? She’s dying to throw you a birthday party. And you said you’d come.”
“I suppose I am then.” Harry said sitting down at his desk. He lowered his voice and said to Ron “We should ask Neville.”
“Ask Neville what?”
“To your mum’s.” Harry said. “His birthday’s right before mine.”
“You’ve never had a proper birthday.” Ron said. “And you want to share it? With Neville?”
“I don’t particularly care about my birthday.” Harry said. “Invite him. If you want, I’ll ask your mum for you.”
“Your funeral.” Ron shrugged. He turned around in his chair and making his way through one of the untouched Death Eater files. Harry grabbed one of the quills Proudfoot had given him and began to pen a letter to Mrs. Weasley.
“I hope you aren’t using Ministry resources to write personal letters Potter.” Said a cool voice. Harry whipped around and saw Leon Williamson standing over him.
“Of course not.” Harry said hastily, shoving the letter underneath a sheath of papers. Williamson narrowed his eyes, but didn’t press the matter.
“Minister Shaklebolt would like a word with the two of you.” Williamson pointed his finger at Harry and then Ron. “Go. Why are you still sitting here?”
Harry and Ron rushed to their feet and began to make their way to Level One.
“Think Proudfoot is taking lessons from him?” Ron jerked his head back to the Auror’s bullpen.
“Likely. Tonks did with Mad-eye.” Harry and Ron grew quite. This was the first time either of them had casually said the name of anyone who had died during the Second Wizarding War. Especially someone who was close to either of them.
“Mad-Eye was stealthy.” Ron said at last. “Tonks could hardly move without making noise.”
“Yeah.” Harry said. They stood outside of Kingsley’s door, neither of them felt like knocking.
“D’you think we’re getting sacked?” Ron asked suddenly.
“Why would Kingsley sack us?” Harry asked. “He asked us to be here.”
“Maybe he thinks we’re taking too long.” Ron suggested.
“Only one way to find out.” Harry said. He pushed open the door. Kingsley was sitting behind the desk, bent over a piece of paper. The room hadn’t changed much since the last time Harry was in it. There was however someone sitting in the chair Harry sat in. Ron cleared his throat.
“Harry. Ron.” Kingsley said in his deep voice. “Come in.” Harry and Ron moved toward the desk. The stranger watched them with curious eyes. He was a thin man, a bit taller than Harry, but shorter than Ron. He had auburn hair that was cut just below his ears. His blue eyes were small, watching their every move. “Sit down.”
Harry and Ron sat. Harry focused on the stranger in front of him. Something about him didn’t feel right. Harry’s hand itched to hold his wand, but he thought it quite rude to threaten a guest of the Minister of Magic.
“I would like to introduce you to Demetrius Heller.” Kingsley said. “Professor Heller was just leaving.”
“Professor?” Ron asked. Kingsley nodded.
“Heller has agreed to take over the Defense Against the Dark Arts position.”
“At Hogwarts?” Harry asked. Kingsley nodded. “Kingsley, not to be rude or anything, but d’you remember what happened the last time the Ministry interfered at Hogwarts?”
“Minerva appointed him. “ Kingsley said coolly. Harry suspected they would talk about this later. “Goodbye Heller.” Heller stood and glanced at both Ron and Harry.
“Goodbye Minister.” He left, the door shut with a loud thud and Harry was left with Ron and Kingsley.
“Potter, please don’t insult my guests.” Kingsley said after a long silence.
“Sorry.” Harry said sheepishly.
“If McGonagall gave him the job, why are you talking to him?” Ron asked.
“Minerva thought something might be off with Heller. She wanted a trained Auror to verify he would be a good fit.” Harry made a face and Kingsley smiled. “I admit it wasn’t quite what I had in mind when I took the job, but Minerva is an old friend and I don’t have to tell the two of you how important good teacher are.”
“Is that why you wanted us here?” Harry asked. “So we could vet your new teacher?”
“No.” Kingsley said. “I wanted to congratulate the two fo you.”
“On what?” Ron asked.
“The capture of Dolores Umbridge.”
“That was weeks ago.” Ron said.
“My apologies for not congratulating you sooner.” Kingsley said. “I am a tad bit busy at the moment.”
“Is that all?” Harry asked.
“No.” There was a long pause. “I wanted to ask you a question about your station.”
“Our station?” Harry asked. “What does that mean?”
“Where you are placed.”
“What?” It was Ron speaking now. Kingsley let out a deep sigh.
“As of this moment, the two of you are working out of the Ministry and the Auror’s Headquarters. However,” There was a long pause. “Minerva and I feel that it is best if there are Auror’s stationed at Hogwarts.”
“Auror’s at Hogwarts?” Harry asked. “But…why?”
“Parents fear for their children’s safety.” Kingsley said. “Or so I hear. The point is, people will feel better about their children going to Hogwarts if they know the Ministry is doing everything in its power to protect the school.”
“And you want us to go?” Harry asked. “You want us to be the Hogwarts Aurors?”
“Yes.” Kingsley said. “You’re school aged, underqualified—“
“So we’ve heard.” Ron muttered. Kingsley ignored him.
“—and the most well-known Aurors we have. If Harry Potter and Ron Weasley are at Hogwarts then it must be safe.”
“What about Neville?” Harry asked. “He’s just as good as us.”
“And Hermione. She’s done everything we’ve done. She’s probably done it better than either of us could manage.” Harry nodded eagerly in agreement.
“Hermione will be busy with her studies and Neville had a job to do here.”
“As do we.” Harry said his temper rising. “I didn’t join up just to be shipped back to Hogwarts.”
“I thought you liked Hogwarts.” Kingsley said.
“I did. I do. I just—I’m here to hunt dark wizards. Not protect kids.”
“Protection is part of an Auror’s duty.”
“Well I’m not very good at that am I?” Harry shouted jumping to his feet, his heart beating loudly against his chest. “Everywhere I go, I leave a stream of dead people in my wake! I’m not good at protecting people. Saving them? Sure. I’m not going to put someone’s kids at risk. I’m not Kingsley. I’m sorry.”
Kingsley observed him with an odd look on his face before returning to Ron.
“What about you?” Ron hesitated.
“Well…I…I’m done with school.” He said. “I’ve decided that a while ago. Going back now…it just doesn’t make any sense.”
“If you were order to go,” Kingsley asked. “Would you?”
“I suppose so.” Ron shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “But wouldn’t it be a bit of a distraction?”
“Hogwarts is the safest place on Earth.” Harry said after a moment. “You don’t need any Aurors there.”
“The three of us know that isn’t true anymore. You’ve seen it for yourself.”
“Well there isn’t a Lord Voldemort to infiltrate it anymore either.” Harry said. “Tom Riddle is dead. Let them go to school in peace. Leave Hogwarts alone, stop breathing down their necks.”
“I hope the two of you reconsider.” Kingsley said after a long silence. “I know for a fact the Hogwarts staff would be delighted to have you back.” Ron and Harry stood up without a word and walked to the door. Harry could still feel his heart thumping loudly against his ribs. Ron was outside of the door now, he had yanked it open. Harry had one foot out when Kingsley called him back.
“What?” Harry said shortly.
“How’s Teddy?” Kingsley asked. This turn of event s shocked him. He was sure that Kingsley was about to chew him out for not wanting to return to Hogwarts. It was, Harry had to admit, a very enticing offer. He could finish school and still be doing his job. However, school was never terribly important to Harry and he felt much happier chasing Dark Wizards than he ever had writing Charms essays.
“He’s good.” Harry said. “Great, he rolls over now. Holds his head up, Hermione’s been telling me that’s good.
“I hear Molly and Arthur have invited you to the Burrow at the end of the month.”
“Yeah. Look, Kingsley,I have work to do so if you don’t mind…” Harry made for the door again.
“I don’t doubt your abilities.” Kingsley said. “You are an exceptional wizard.”
“Thanks.” Harry said. “I’ll see you around Kingsley.”
“Goodnight Harry.” Harry opened the door and left the Minister’s office.
He knew, of course, that Kingsley wasn’t trying to say that he or Ron were bad Aurors. Deep down inside he understood why Kingsley had wanted them to go to the Hogwarts position; he had a feeling it also had something to do with Mrs. Weasley who was not too please about the Idea of the two of them failing to return to Hogwarts. There was an appeal to returning, Harry liked it at Hogwarts, it was the very first place he felt accepted and, although he was hesitant to admit it, loved. He knew Kingsley and Mrs. Weasley wanted the best for him and Ron; he knew that for them this meant returning to Hogwarts. What both of them failed to realize was that he and Ron had out grown. Perhaps, Kingsley and Mrs. Weasley were having trouble coming to terms with the fact that Harry and Ron were no longer children. They had, surprisingly, a life outside of Hogwarts.
Harry walked back to the Auror’s office in a stupor. He wiped his tired eyes and sat down at his desk suppressing a yawn. He had barely opened one of his files when another hand closed it.
“Go home Potter.” Proudfoot said.
“It’s ten o’clock in the morning.” Harry protested. “I have work to do.”
“Go home Potter.” Proudfoot repeated. “You’re tired and from what I’ve heard you’ve been working late.”
“Go home. See your godson.”
Harry watched Proudfoot walk away before turning to Ron. “Kingsley set her up to this.”
“Why aren’t I going home then?” Ron asked. “He wants me there, just as much as he wants you.” Harry grabbed his wand.
“Search me.” Harry said.
“I’ll see you tomorrow?” Ron called as Harry left the bullpen. Harry nodded and continued to make his way out of the ministry.
Being outside in the day light was shocking to him. Being outside at all was shocking to him. For the Past two months Harry had been up at dawn and spent his entire day inside the confines of the ministry with the exception of the raids he went on with Proudfoot, Ron and Neville every few days. The days where we was outside, free and of his own accord were few and far between. Harry travelled to Grimmauld Place and waved a surprised Kreacher off at the door. Kreacher hadn’t expected him to be home this early. Harry hadn’t expected to be home this early. Harry walked down the stairs and into the kitchen where Teddy was lying on his stomach atop the kitchen table. Harry scooped Teddy up and walked back up the stairs where Kreacher stood at the door.
“We’ll be back later.” Harry said. “Don’t wait for us.” He slammed the door behind him. In the sunlight, Teddy looked oddly pale, the kind of pale his father used to get when the moon was full. Maybe it was because he never left Grimmauld Place (which was would be nothing to worry about), but he made a note ask Bill (the only person he knew who had an idea about the workings of werewolves) later on. Harry conjured a pram out of thin air and placed Teddy inside it gently and set off. There was no place in particular that Harry had wanted to go. The Dursley’s never took him to London and even in Surrey they had never taken him to a park or any public place if they could help it. Harry made a promise to himself that he would never do any of that to Teddy. Not even when he had his own family. Harry was surprised to find himself in a large public park that he had never seen before. He sat down on a bench shaded by a large tree and took Teddy out of his pram. It had been a longtime since they had been together the two of them.
“We haven’t spent much time together I’m afraid.” Harry whispered to Teddy. “That’s my fault.” Teddy smiled and tried to pull Harry’s glasses off of his face.
“You understand, right?” Harry asked. “There are a lot of bad people in the world Teddy. A lot. It’s my job to catch them.” Teddy clapped his hands.
“Its people like them…they’re the reason we don’t have mums or dads. So you see why I have to stop them.” Teddy laughed again and reached for Harry’s glasses.
“I think this will be more fun when you’re older.” Harry said. “You can’t do much can you? You’re as useful as a flobberworm. Merlin, I sound like Ron.”
“What’s a flobberworm? Who’s Ron?” said a familiar voice. Harry turned around, his grasp on Teddy automatically tightening. Behind him, peering over his shoulder was his old neighbor Ruth.
“What are you doing here?” Harry asked, pulling Teddy’s hand off of his glasses.
“Mum brought Sam and I to play.” She stated nodding her to her mother and brother who sat a few yards away. She sat down next to Harry and waved hello to Teddy.
“Have you ever done anything you can’t explain?” She asked suddenly.
“What do you mean?” Harry asked, the weight of his wand burning in his pocket.
“Sometimes…”She looked around to make sure no one could hear her. “When I get angry, things break when I’m not near them. Or…or I need something and it shows up. Even though I’m not near it.”
“Maybe it’s a coincidence.” Harry said. In his heart, he knew it wasn’t true.
“Yeah.” Harry nodded. “Yeah. It is.”
Ruth’s mother called and she left.