All rights to Harry Potter belong to J.K. Rowling.
Ginny stuck her tongue out at the mirror, but still she couldn't stop herself from checking her hair again. She wasn't usually so concerned about every detail of her appearance before an evening out with Harry, as long as she looked nice. After all he'd seen her at her worst more times than she could count. Tonight though, she wanted to look especially good in case Harry asked THE question.
"Your hair looks fine!" Ginny scolded herself.
"Very attractive, dear," said the mirror. Ginny nodded gratefully. She'd tried a new upsweep that Hermione had shown her from a Muggle magazine, and it felt…odd.
"Ginny?" Harry's voice, Ginny turned to her door quickly and ran down the stairs before her mother could get to the fire.
"Harry, is something wrong?" She asked. She noticed his eyes widening at the sight of her, but then he grimaced. Oh no, if he tells me he has to work…"Ginny, we've almost got him! I know it! We can't stop now…" Ginny braced herself for the worst.
"Ginny, I don't think I'm up for a night on the town…" said Harry.
Well that's a new one. Maybe it isn't work, thought Ginny. She noticed that he looked a little more pale than usual. "Do you feel okay? I could bring you some potion…"
"A potion won't help," said Harry sounding completely defeated.
Ginny stooped a little lower to the fire and really studied him. He avoided her gaze, and his jaw was clenched. Not something physical then, she thought.
"I'm coming over, get out of the way." She announced. She was determined to find out just what was going on.
"No Ginny," Harry began, blocking her way, "You can't…" But Ginny had already Summoned a peppershaker from a nearby shelf. She threw some pepper in his face. Harry immediately began coughing, sneezing and sputtering all at once. He backed out of the flames in a hurry. Ginny stepped up to the fire, and yelled "Number One, Boy Who Lived Lane, Flat One."
She still chuckled every time she had to call out his address. After Harry had defeated Voldemort, the Ministry looked for every kind of honor they could present him with including Order of Merlin, First Class, and the key to Diagon Alley. Later, while Ginny was still in her seventh year, Harry rented a flat on a side street in Diagon Alley. The Ministry had hurriedly named the street after Harry. So now, even though he lived halfway along the road in a flat on the third floor, both were labelled with number one. The Aurors had tried to convince the Minister to change his mind saying that Harry would now be much easier for some rogue Death Eater to find, but nothing could dissuade him. Three and a half years later and despite a lot of half-hearted complaining about his address, Harry hadn't moved. Ginny suspected it had something to do with the older witch who lived just below him. Whenever Ginny happened to walk by, the woman always stuck her head hopefully out her door. She was usually holding a plate of something that smelled delicious in her hands, but as soon as she saw it was Ginny she'd sigh disappointedly and go back into her apartment.
Ginny quickly performed a cleaning charm after landing in Harry's flat. He wasn't in the room, but she could hear water running in the kitchen. That will teach him to disobey a direct order, smirked Ginny, until she realized that she sounded just like her mother.
When Harry walked back in, still patting a towel to his face, he saw a shamefaced Ginny, who quickly mumbled several apologies. He gave her a small smile.
"I had to tell you eventually anyway. Probably better to get it over with," said Harry. He sat on the sofa and rested his feet on the coffee table. He put his head back and closed his eyes with a sigh.
"Bad day?" asked Ginny.
"Hmmm? Yes it was a bad day, a never-ending bad day," he answered.
Ginny sat next to him, putting her arm across his chest and resting her chin on his shoulder. She looked into his face.
"Tell me about it, Harry," she asked.
"I love it when you use that tone of voice," said Harry with a slight smile leaning over to kiss her just behind the ear. She laughed and then pushed his head back.
"Stop trying to distract me," said Ginny. Harry laughed for a brief moment, then he sank back against the sofa. He was quiet for several minutes and Ginny wondered what could be so difficult to say.
"I've been sacked." He finally told her. Ginny sat up and looked at him incredulously.
"Nope...wait until the newspapers catch hold of the story. The Boy Who Lived, the Famous Harry Potter, has been sacked. Not competent enough to be an Auror. Snape will wet his pants from laughing when he hears," Harry said with a bitter laugh.
"Then, I hope he's in the Great Hall at the time. Give the kids something to smile about," said Ginny. Harry snorted.
"You always make me laugh," he told her. He put his arm back around her and pulled her close.
"Ginny…" Harry began sounding very serious. She nodded, her head resting against his shoulder as they both looked into the flames. "I was planning… I'm afraid now that I don't have a job…well, I can't ask you to marry me anymore because I don't have a good source of income, and I might not be able to support you…"
Ginny couldn't help herself. She laughed in his face. Harry looked hurt.
"Well, maybe I could get a job doing something else. I'm not sure what, and it may not pay well…" Ginny laugh turned into a funny snorting type of noise, Why can't I just laugh like normal people? Snorting like a pig is not at all sexy.
Finally she sat forward. She tried breathing deeply to compose herself. "Oh, Harry," she said when she could finally talk again, "Don't make me laugh like that…I couldn't even breathe." She wiped the tears from her eyes as she got herself back under control.
"Ginny, I'm serious…"
"Harry! You have not one, but two vaults full of Galleons at Gringotts. Not to mention the reward money the Ministry is holding for you just in case you ever decide to accept it. That's enough to support five families with six children each."
"But that's all I have…" said Harry.
"Stop, my sides hurt. Harry, all I want is you. Besides, I have a job, I could support us if your gold suddenly disappeared," said Ginny kissing him on the cheek between snorts of laughter.
She rested her head back on his shoulder, "Of course, this does ruin my dreams of the two of us flying away into the sunset on a solid gold broomstick for two after our wedding, but I guess I could settle for gold inlay instead." Harry grabbed the cushion from behind him and hit her with it.
"So tell me what happened," said Ginny when they'd both stopped laughing. Briefly she wondered if he'd answer. Over the years Harry had begun talking to her more often when something was bothering him, but that didn't mean he always told her everything. She didn't realize she'd been holding her breath until he shrugged.
"I'm just not a team player, and Aurors work as a team. That's how we keep each other safe." Ginny looked up at him sympathetically.
Harry smiled at her ruefully, "Maybe kissing every last one of those freckles should be my new mission in life…"
"Definitely a job worth doing," responded Ginny seriously. Harry leaned forward and kissed the freckle just left of her mouth—that was his favorite one he'd told her, so close to his final destination.
He leaned back with a smile. "I get distracted when you look that pretty…" Ginny smiled with pleasure. Harry turned his body until he was leaning with his shoulder against the sofa. Once they were facing each other, he reached out a hand and caressed her cheek. Then with a sigh he sat forward again and began telling her about what had happened.
"According to Shacklebolt, I'm too much of a maverick."
"What's a maverick?" asked Ginny.
Harry shrugged, "It's an American expression, something about cows without names. He said that I always try to do things my own way. I'm too used to following my own lead, and I don't obey orders like I should. I put people in danger and take unnecessary risks by trying to do all of the dangerous stuff myself."
"Is that true?" asked Ginny with concern.
"I don't know," said Harry pausing to think. "Maybe. It's probably safe to tell you what happened last night...besides I can't get in worse trouble. They've already sacked me." Harry took a swig from a bottle on the table in front of him before starting his story.
"Last night, we got a report of a Death Eater threatening people outside a pub near Bath. Tonks told me to shadow her and let her do the talking.
"The whole thing turned out to be a prank, a boozed up seventeen-year-old dressed up and celebrating Halloween six months early. But before we realized that, I managed to screw everything up by pushing Tonks to the side and stunning the prankster.
"The kid's only a couple of years younger than us, but I didn't recognize him. Well, he was thrilled to have The Famous Harry Potter arrest him. He kept going on about it, and he was already speculating about how much the Daily Prophet might pay him for his story when Tonks quietly came up behind him and modified his memory. I pulled my hood up and stepped a little behind Tonks before the kid lost his dazed expression. Then we marched the kid back to his mother. Tonks gave him a stern warning, but that was nothing compared to what she had to say to me when we got back to headquarters.
"And that's not the first time something like that has happened," Harry finished. "So, yeah, Shacklebolt was right." Ginny and Harry each watched the fire for several minutes.
"Harry, can I ask you a question?" said Ginny. He nodded curiously. "And will you promise to really think about it before you answer?" Harry nodded again.
"Did you enjoy being an Auror?" she asked. He immediately opened his mouth to answer, but Ginny put a finger over his lips. "Think about it before you answer."
"I like helping people," said Harry after a minute.
"There are loads of ways to help people," said Ginny.
"Yeah, but I'm not really cut out to be a Healer, either," said Harry with a laugh.
"There are many ways to help people, Harry. Aurors and Healers do not have a corner on the helping people market. What else did you enjoy about being an Auror?"
"I liked working with the other Aurors…"
"Well, most of them just want to help keep people safe like me."
"Fair enough. Keep going. 'Being an Auror is fun because…'"
"Not because of the bureaucracy, that's for sure," said Harry, shaking his head with a laugh.
"Okay, so what did you dislike about being an Auror?" Ginny asked thinking that might be an easier tack. Harry shrugged uneasily.
"Taking orders, perhaps?" Ginny asked slyly. Harry blushed.
"It's just hard to listen when they insist on doing things a certain way because that's how it says to do it in their stupid rulebook," Harry said in exasperation. "Even when there is obviously a better way to handle the situation."
Ginny reached up and kissed Harry on the lips. "You rule-breaker, you!"
Harry grimaced ruefully, "Okay so Shacklebolt did have a point."
Just then the fire flared to life. Harry sat up a little straighter as first Ron, then Hermione stepped into the room. Ginny smiled mischievously to herself. She snuggled a little closer to Harry making him blush. Ron just rolled his eyes before turning his complete attention to Harry.
"We just heard, Harry. I can't believe they would do this to you," began Ron. "After all you've done, no one deserves to be an Auror more than you, mate!"
Harry looked like he'd been slapped in the face, "'Deserves?' Does someone 'deserve' to be an Auror?" demanded Harry startling Ron and Hermione. He calmed down almost immediately. "I'm sorry, it's just that I've tried so hard to avoid accepting anything resembling a reward for killing Voldemort."
"Harry, but are you okay?" asked Hermione as she sat on the table in front of them. "And Ron's right, even if you don't like to hear it. You've done more in the fight against the Death Eaters than any ten Aurors combined. You have earned the right to work as an Auror. When the Minister finds out what Shacklebolt's done...well, you'll have your job back in no time!"
Harry shifted uncomfortably, and Ginny gave him a squeeze. He looked down at her and she smiled reassuringly.
"Maybe I don't want my job back…" Harry said, looking surprised by his own words.
"What? Harry, don't talk nonsense, all you've ever wanted to be was an Auror," said Ron. "What'll you do now? Marry Ginny and turn into Mr. Mum?" Harry laughed.
"Sounds like fun. What do you think, Ginny?" asked Harry with a wink. "Would I look good in an apron?"
"Definitely," answered Ginny cuddling up to him with a suggestive smile.
"Eww, stop," said Ron.
"As if you and Hermione weren't three times as disgusting the last few months before you got married," said Harry.
"So you consider this one of the last few months before your marriage, do you?" asked Hermione with a smile for Ginny. "Last I heard, you hadn't even popped the question." Harry smiled widely, and did what any smart bachelor would do—changed the subject.
"Back to Shacklebolt, Ginny and I've been talking, and he may have been right to sack me," said Harry.
Hermione and Ron each looked at him in surprise, waiting for him to explain.
"If that call last night had been for real, I would have put both myself and Tonks in real danger by knocking her out of the way like I did," Harry told Ron. "Just imagine a situation like that if there'd been more Death Eaters hiding nearby. I disabled my own partner. Both Tonks and I would have been in danger." Ron looked at Harry in dismay.
"So what are we going to do now, if were not Aurors?" asked Ron with typical solidarity. Ginny smiled at her brother fondly.
"We aren't going to do anything, Ron. You're a great Auror, and you really enjoy it. As for me, I'll figure out something," Harry said with a shrug. Ron looked ready to argue, but a knock on the door interrupted him.
Ginny kissed Harry quickly on the cheek. "I'll get it." She kicked a pair of running shorts out of her way before reaching for the handle. Harry's flat was never completely clean even with the frequent visits of her mum and Dobby. Despite being accustomed to the clutter, Ginny paused a moment to look back at Harry curiously. Why are his shorts next to the door? Does he undress the moment he walks into his flat?
With a blush on her face, Ginny opened the door to Professor Dumbledore. He smiled kindly.
"Hello Professor," said Ginny with genuine pleasure. She waved him in.
"Good evening, I hope I'm not interrupting…" The old headmaster looked around. His eyes twinkled as he surveyed the group of friends in front of him. "It's always nice to see school friendships continue on beyond graduation."
"Good evening, Professor," the other three chorused as they hastily stood.
"Sit down, sit down. My, what a lovely bachelor pad this is, Harry. Much nicer then my own was at your age..." Dumbledore said. Ginny followed Dumbledore's roving gaze. The furnishings and knickknacks in the flat were easily divided between those she and Hermione had helped Harry pick out and those her father or Ron had bought for Harry.
The larger pieces: the sofa, recliner, and throw pillows were all of good quality and mostly in Gryffindor red and gold. The wooden bookcases, dining table and chairs were stained with a rich oak finish. These were the pieces that Ginny and Hermione had helped Harry select.
Other things like an empty CD jewel case, a hollow TV, and various other useless odds and ends sprinkled around the room had been collected by Mr. Weasley at his favorite shopping destination. The Ottery St. Catchpole Monthly Boot Sale was a makeshift Saturday market in a school car park where Muggles sold their unwanted items from the boots of their cars. According to her father, it was paradise.
When Harry had first moved into the flat, Mr. Weasley had considered it imperative to find the right Muggle artifacts to make the flat seem like home to Harry. There was a rusted car jack on the bookcase above Harry's cauldron and potion books, an assortment of unmatched jigsaw pieces on the shelf next to Harry's picture of her, and her favorite—a crystal perfume bottle collection on a silver tray sitting on the same shelf as several Quidditch trophies. Ginny threw something away every time she came to visit, but Harry still had enough Muggle junk in his flat to last until he was 150 years old. Of course, that was only if Mr. Weasley didn't continue to add to it.
Ron had also contributed a few interesting odds and ends. There were the odd Christmas and birthday gifts like the Sneakoscope he'd bought for Harry in Egypt and a Wizard Chess set. But now, thanks to Ron, Harry had the entire collection of Harry Potter Action Figures from the World Cup Season, and an enlarged Harry Potter Chocolate Frog Card. These both had been shoved in a corner towards the bottom of one of the two bookcases, but Ginny knew Harry wouldn't get rid of them in case Ron ever noticed their absence.
Dumbledore wandered over to one of the bookcases, which were on either side of the fireplace, picking up one of Harry's old textbooks and leafing through the pages.
He really never throws anything away!
Ginny thought absently as she settled herself down on the sofa next to Harry.
The headmaster stopped with interest at Harry's collection of defense books. It is quite impressive, Ginny silently agreed. Harry had one whole bookcase, about seven shelves each a metre wide, devoted to Defense books. Several stacks of books sat on top of the bookcase because they didn't fit on the shelves.
"Ah, I've been looking for this particular volume for several years now, and I haven't been able to find it. Would you mind terribly if I borrowed it, Harry?" asked the Professor holding up a book with an orange cover.
"Not at all, sir," said Harry.
"I'm sorry, I'm being a rude guest. I just always like to see what people put on their bookcases. It says so much about them, don't you think?" asked Dumbledore. Ginny couldn't hold back her laughter. The others looked at her in surprise.
"So what does a rusty, car jack say about you, Harry?" asked Ginny still laughing.
"That he'll go to great lengths to make an old man happy," answered Dumbledore without missing a beat. "And I can't tell you how reassured I am by that jack." Ginny laughed again, the other three joining in.
"So Professor, what is it you want, besides to borrow a book?" asked Harry with a smile. Dumbledore conjured his favorite chair and sat down.
"I was just at my favorite pub," began the professor, "and I happened to recognize a former Order member looking down at the mouth, so naturally I asked what was wrong. He then explained to me he'd just made the stupidest career move of his life, and unless he fixed things he'd probably be fired by morning.
"However, he'd followed his heart, and now he was quite reluctant to make the changes even if he couldn't save his job. His reluctance was not for his own sake, you understand, as obviously he'd be helping himself if he retracted his decision, but because of the other person involved."
The four of them looked at the Professor in confusion.
"You want me to help this person…?" asked Harry pausing as though he was waiting for the professor to continue, "Or maybe the other person involved?"
"Well, since the other person involved is you, I imagine you'll do what you can for yourself. As for Shacklebolt, in the end he'll do what he believes is right. He always has.
"No Harry, the person, if any, that I want you to help is me, and if by helping me you help others, well so much the better." Dumbledore nodded in agreement with himself as though this solved all problems.
"Uh, Professor, but you haven't said how I can help you," said Harry slowly looking at the others to make sure he wasn't the only one completely lost. Ginny squeezed his arm reassuringly, although she had a suspicion about what Dumbledore wanted.
The professor started in surprise and laughed, "No, I suppose I haven't explained that bit yet, have I?
"For the last twenty years, more perhaps, I haven't been able to keep a single Defense professor more than a year. I was hoping you might consider the position. I'm offering you a two-year contract, because frankly, for at least one summer during my tenure as headmaster I would like to stop worrying about filling that dreadful post."
Ginny watched Harry carefully. She'd guessed what Dumbledore was going to ask, but she could tell Harry hadn't. His eyes were open wide, but otherwise his expression was completely blank as though nothing was happening behind his face.
Then he turned and looked at Ginny, and her heart warmed when she realized he wanted her opinion. She smiled, openly encouraging him.
"Me? A teacher?" said Harry almost to himself. Ginny kept still letting him make his own decision.
"Professor Dumbledore…" began Harry still obviously thinking hard. "I think I..."
"Harry," cautioned Hermione interrupting, "This is a big decision, maybe you should think about it more carefully before you decide one way or the other." Harry, Ron and Ginny watched her, waiting for the next part.
"You might want to get a book about teaching..." They all shared a smile.
"Harry taught the DA," said Ron. "He was great at that! He'll be great as a DADA professor too." Ginny turned back to look at Dumbledore. Harry was watching him too. The old wizard's eyes were twinkling merrily and a smile played on his lips, but he didn't say anything.
"Teaching isn't easy," said Ginny looking back at Harry. "I think you'd be good at it though, and it is one way to help people." Harry nodded in agreement obviously catching her reference to their earlier conversation.
"Yes, Professor, I think I will," said Harry with finality.
"Good, then I will expect to see you at eleven tomorrow morning. You can sign the contracts, and then join me for lunch," Dumbledore suggested, standing. Harry nodded, standing as well. "I'll let Shacklebolt know, and with your permission he can announce your early resignation, giving yourself time to prepare for your new post?" Harry nodded again, shaking Dumbledore's hand as he opened the door.
"Until tomorrow then," said Dumbledore with a smile.
Ron and Hermione left soon afterward. Ron wished Harry luck, and Hermione promised to send him several books on correct teaching methods.
"You know," said Ginny putting her arms around Harry's waist. "I've always wondered what it'd be like to snog a teacher…"
"Not with Snape, I hope," said Harry with a grimace.
"No," said Ginny with a laugh, "Mostly it was just the years when Lockhart and Remus were teaching."
"Remus? Is there something we need to discuss?" asked Harry teasingly.
"Yes, there is. You promised me a special dinner. Now here I am all dressed up and hungry too. When are you going to deliver on your promise?" Ginny asked cheekily. Harry laughed in reply. Picking up his coat, he grabbed her hand and led her to the door. They paused in front of the door while he put his coat on.
"Harry, I have one last question." Said Ginny hesitantly. Harry stopped to look at her.
"How did those running shorts get on the floor next to the door?"
"Because that's where I dropped them….after I collected my laundry from downstairs. Why? How did you think they got there, Ginny?" asked Harry curiously.
Ginny blushed violently and stammered, "I didn't know…" Harry cocked his head to the side.
"Why Ginny, what thoughts have you been entertaining?" asked Harry with a laugh before leading her out the door.