The goblins take his money.
Harry’s never indulged in the fortune his parents left him, but he supposed he’d always taken comfort in the fact that money was not a concern of his. He’d never had to think about money, or providing for himself, so when he received a notice that they were charging him for the damages incurred in May, he realized he’d have to get a job.
But only after a good deal of shouting.
“We were in the middle of a war!”
“Goblins do not take part in trivial human matters,” the goblin said. “You broke into our building and caused a significant amount of damage-“
“Take it out of the Lestrange Vault!”
“They were the victims.”
“Victims?” he asked. “You’re defending two people responsible for crimes so terrible the Prophet won’t even print them all.”
“Again, Mr. Potter. Goblins do not take part in trivial human matters.” The Goblin looked bored. “Our only concern is ensuring that the gold and valuables of our clients are secure. You broke into a vault, stole and damaged our building. Thus, you must pay for the damages. If you would like to pay for those damages in a different form then we will gladly give you access to your vault, otherwise consider your account with Gringotts closed.”
Hermione decides to go back to school. Ron decides to join her.
“What do you mean you want to go back to school?” Harry asked as they casually discussed this over tea as if the news wasn’t life-altering.
“We’ve been talking about this for weeks, mate,” Ron answered, looking just as surprised as Harry felt.
“But we’ve been offered jobs as Aurors!” Harry pointed out.
“No, Kingsley asked if we’d be willing to help rebuild the department,” Ron replied. Harry stared at him. “There is no Aurors, the head was killed as soon as Thickneese took over and everyone with any sense fled. After everything we’ve been through this past year, do you really want to keep taking on Death Eaters with no help?”
“If not us, then who?” Harry asked.
“Literally, anyone else,” Ron said impatiently. “Look, if it were an actual job with someone there to help us then sure, but until there’s anyone with sense running the department then I don’t fancy going on goose chases for who knows how long.”
“Don’t you want something normal, Harry?” Hermione pleaded. “Haven’t you given enough?”
“No,” he said, staring at his best friends and wondering how they could even consider it being over. “How can you just go to school like there isn’t evil out there?”
They shared a worried look.
“There’s always going to be evil,” Ron replied. “But I think we’ll be much better fighting it if we take a year for ourselves and get qualified.”
Ron’s right. There is no Auror department.
It’s with bitterness that Harry admits to himself that Ron might have had a point. He shows up to a room full of people all staring at each other with distrust. The appointed department head instructs them to patrol Diagon Alley, attend Wizengamont sessions, monitor Azkaban. Mundane tasks that dark wizard catchers had no business doing.
When Harry spends more time being shown off to international wizards than he does battling evil and at Christmas, he finds himself jealous of Ron and Hermione’s stories about quidditch and classes and papers.
“You could come,” Hermione offered, “I’d help you catch up.”
“I already have a job to do.” He said bitterly and doesn’t see them off.
Harry goes rogue.
According to his orders, he’s to get information only. Not leave his post. They are to observe, build cases, not intervene unless they have sufficient manpower. But when Dolohov has the nerve to show his face in the middle of the day Harry can’t find it in himself to care that he’d not supposed to act. Particularly not when Dolohov gives him an evil smile and orders a pint like he’d never tortured anyone like he had as much a right to be in the pub as Harry.
So he stuns him, binds him and leaves behind a broken table and a screaming crowd.
The press have a field day.
“The Boy-Who-Lives does it again!”
“Evil Truphped by the Chosen One”
It feels good to be recognized for having done something beyond stand behind Kingsley at a press conference. And his boss can’t really argue because now, there’s one less Death Eater on the streets and he seems perfectly happy taking the credit for the work that Harry did.
When Harry seeing Dawlish accepting payment from Goyle in an alley he captures him too. He stops showing up for his assigned shifts and starts tracking down whoever he can find.
Ron and Hermione graduate. They get engaged. They get married.
They beg him over for dinner or out for drinks and he makes it when he can, but there’s so much work to do and not enough people doing it. He resents Hermione for taking a job with Magical Law because she is fierce and competitive and he could use her by his side but he resents Ron more for taking a job with the Aurors and following every rule he’s given.
“Not all of us are you, Harry,” Ron says, refusing to leave his patrol in Hogsmeade to help him track down who’s been trafficking entrumptment horn and selling it off in dangerous quantities. “If I were to do the things that you were I’d be fired.”
So Harry stops asking Ron to join him. Stops accepting invitations to dinner to avoid the gentle suggestions that he should take a day off, rest. Stops joining the Weasleys on Sundays. Starts pretending he’s not home with Hermione comes calling. Stops going into the office on the days he knows Ron is there.
He cuts himself off because they don’t understand. They don’t get it. For Harry, it doesn’t end with Voldemort. If he was born the power to defeat the dark lord then he has the power to defeat them all.
The ministry is perfectly happy to let a teenager sort out their problems until they aren’t.
Aside from some feeble attempts to reign him in during that first year, Harry has largely been left to his own devices. He’s lasted through department policy changes, three department heads, and countless initiatives to reduce dark wizards and address the inequities that plagued their society. Though it all, Harry had continued hunting down dark wizards with no repercussions to his actions.
It’s only when he’s injured on the job, stuck in a hospital bed to regrow all of the bones in his right leg that he gets the notice. Under investigation.
“For improper apprehension methods?” Harry raged at the letter that had been hand-delivered by the head of the department, flanked by two of his own bodyguards. “Since when has petrifying someone been improper?”
“Six months,” Ron frowned at him.
“They passed a law about it and everything,” Hermione told him. “They did a study and found that being petrified for more than an hour had the potential for long term effects, not to mention the psychological trauma. I sent you the article, didn’t you read it?”
Ron and Hermione had shown up before he’d even woken and though it’d been weeks since he’d last spoken with them, showed no sign of leaving.
“Didn’t have the time,” Harry said truthfully enough. In fact, he hadn’t opened any of their mail in a long time. It sat, piled on his dresser at home. It was too painful, remembering what they had once shared and he was no longer a part of.
“Well,” Hermione continued, “You’ll have plenty of time to read now, the healer said that you needed to take it easy.”
“I need to go back to work,” Harry countered.
“You’re suspended, Harry,” Ron told him in a surprisingly firm voice. “You need to recover.”
Anger pt. I
They refuse to rise to his foul mood, act as if everything is the same between them when nothing is. It boils over when, even after a week, he’s unable to get dressed without Ron’s help.
“You haven’t been through what I’ve been through.” He spat at them angrily. “You don’t understand how it feels to be responsible for this!”
He’s been yelling for a while and they’ve been taking it which only makes him angrier.
“No,” Hermione agreed, a hitch in her voice. “We don’t.”
She hesitated and Harry spit, “But?”
They glanced at one another and then, in a hesitant voice.
“But we stopped,” Ron answered, “Because it was too painful. We gave ourselves time to recover, to sort out what had happened to us.”
“Things were bad,” Hermione whispered, “At school.”
They share another significant look and in a pained voice she went on. “We were irritable and hostile. I wouldn’t sleep for days because so long as I was working I could ignore everything that had happened.”
“We fought with each other, with others,” Ron told him. “I’d get up and leave class, hex people for talking bad about you. Had it been any other year, we would have been expelled for sure.”
“And of course there were flashbacks and nightmares but it was nothing compared to the intrusive thoughts,” she drew a shuddering breath, “Sometimes it felt like there was still a Horcux around our necks whispering terrible things. Sometimes I wish there was to explain away the lack of control. The guilt of surviving, the anxiety in thinking of all the ways we shouldn’t’ve been able to.”
“It took us a while, to even see that there was something wrong,” Ron said, reaching over to grab Hermione’s hand. “And when we did it didn’t give us any answers on how to make it better.”
“We spent a lot of time talking,” Hermione provided. “Talking it all to death, to the point that I wasn’t even interested in talking about it anymore.”
“And we set boundaries, on what we could handle from one another and from the world,” Ron said. “I gave up Quidditch because I’d get so angry during the games. Every missed goal felt like life or death and afterwords I’d berate the team win or lose.”
“And I set a routine so I ate every day and wouldn’t just hole myself up in the library and got to bed at a decent time.” Hermione’s voice was kind. “We didn’t graduate cured, but I felt like I had a handle on myself. I wasn’t terrified to be left alone.”
“We wanted to help you, mate, we’ve always wanted to help you, but you went barreling down this path and refused to even consider taking a second for yourself,” Ron said. “I couldn’t do that with you then, and I can’t do that with you now.”
Hermione reached over and grasped his arm. “You have to let us help you, Harry. And if it’s not us, you have to figure out something that will because if you keep going like you are-“ she broke off as if the thought was too terrible.
“Come home with us,” Ron said firmly, “Don’t go running off chasing the next horrible thing because it’ll still be there once you’ve had a chance to recover.”
He sees a therapist.
Has too, if he wants any chance at his job back. His first appointment she smiles too much and seems a little starstruck and Harry found it hard to believe that she wouldn’t sell his secrets for the right price. Not to mention her questions. About his family, about his past, his friendships and it all feels a little too much like an interview with Rita gone wrong but then...
“Why does it have to be you hunting all these Death Eaters down?”
“But I was the one named and until I capture them all-”
“Until I killed him he was going to keep coming after me. I was the one prophesied to kill him, there was nothing anyone else could do.”
She looked at him patiently and Harry felt his anger spike.
“Voldemort tried to murder me when I was barely old enough to stand. He followed me to school and eleven, when I was twelve his Horcrux tried to murder me, fourteen, fifteen, I was the only one who could end it.”
“And what about now? Voldemort isn’t what’s coming after you.”
“No, but his followers are still at large and as long as they are my friends are in danger, the wizarding world is in danger.”
“Do you feel that there’s anyone else who is able”
“No one else was doing anything! Before I arrested Dolohov they were just sitting on their asses, twiddling their thumbs, not caring that the people who hunted down and cursed my friends were allowed to walk the streets.”
“Do you still feel that way? Like there’s no one else doing anything?”
“Well, no, but-”
“But the ministry always waited too long to act. Sure, right now things are functioning but what happens when another Dark Lord comes? What happens when a politician becomes corrupt? It’s really hard to believe that things will continue to get better because in my experience things only ever get better for a while.”
The five stages of grief.
“Those wankers don’t know what they’re doing. Half the cells in Azkaban are filled because of me. The ministry won’t be able to do a thing without me.”
“Any day now, the charges’ll be dropped. I’m Harry Potter, I killed Voldemort. The ministry can’t run without me.”
“If they could just give me another year, I could round up who’s left.”
“What’s the point, if I can’t defeat Dark Wizards? It’s not like I have any skills to speak of.”
“I don’t think being an Auror is healthy.”
“I don’t think I want to chase Dark Wizards any more.”
It took some getting used to, life at Ron and Hermione’s.
There was the morning rush as they bumped into one another and got ready for work, but by in large life was a lot slower, neater. They came home by six and made dinner and drank wine on the couch as the dishes washed themselves in the sink. In the evenings, Hermione would work and Ron would entertain them with stories about his day as Crookshakes curled up on Harry’s lap with a warm weight that made him sleepily.
On the weekends they’d go to the market and Quidditch matches or listen to the wireless and the rain lashing at the windows. It was…peaceful. Calm.
George and Ginny would stop in for dinner. Percy would pop up for a quick consult with Hermione only to stay for an hour. Molly brought baskets of baked good and even though Harry insisted he didn’t need anything, she’d tidy up and do his washing.
When the fourth month passed and the matter had yet to be sorted, he gave up his flat at Ron and Hermione’s insistence. And when his healers said he didn’t have to be on bed rest any longer, he accepted George’s invitation to come and visit the shop. It was there that Harry found his own routine, stacking boxes, counting. It was soothing, calm. When he walked through the door in the evening Ron and Hermione would smile and in time he started to smile back.
His name is cleared.
He always knew it would be. What should have been an administrative disciplinary hearing is a full spectacle, standing room only. When they deliver the final verdict, people actually gasp and it takes several minutes to regain order.
“Mr. Potter will be placed under supervision for a probationary period of a year. Should there be no more issues, then he will resume his duties with all the authority the title of Auror carries.”
“Thank you, minister,” Harry replied, “I accept your judgment.”
Again, the buzzing.
“But I respectfully resign, effective immediately.”
His ears ring for days after.
Harry finds a different path.
He doesn’t visit McGonagall intending to apply for the ever vacant Defence post, just to ask to start a club, come and lecture. Harry is beginning to regret not going back to school and while he doesn’t think it will cure him like it cured Ron and Hermione, he hopes that it will return to him that hopeful feeling. But Harry’s never quite figured out how to argue with her stern look.
“There’s no point in trying to hire someone else,” she said firmly as they discussed Harry’s proposition over tea and ginger biscuits. “I don’t fancy hearing students attending your club and then arguing with the Professor that the only useful spell is ‘Expellimus’.”
Harry’s face grows hot and thinks about pointing out that he’s quite apt at a shield charm as well, but gives in. “A year, as a trial. The position is cursed after all.”
“You’ve never been one for rules, Harry. Why should you follow this one?”
A year turns into two turns into ten. He trains his students on defensive spells and jelly-legs jinxes. Tells the story of how Ron defeated a troll when they were first years and how Hermione traveled in time to do too many classes. His students all ask for tales of battle and when he gives in he senses their disappointment because all his stories end in a lesson. Lessons of bravery and kindness. Of how Voldemort wouldn’t’ve existed at all if perhaps he hadn’t been loved more as a child.
He sees Ron and Hermione’s children through school who call him Uncle and act the same in his classroom as they do when he joins them on the holidays. He drinks tea with Neville in the staff room and offers Butterbeer to students who come to him late at night with fears. Sometimes, Harry wonders what might have happened if he hadn’t gone too far. But it’s painful to imagine a world where he doesn’t stay up late grading papers and sneak out after dinner to have a drink with his friends.
At seventeen he thought his only purpose was to defeat the dark arts but now he can see that fighting death eaters isn’t the only way to make the world a better place.