Disclaimer: I don't own any of this. Even the feeble idea of a plot was probably inadvertently taken from all the fics I've read. Sigh… someday I'll be able to write something of my own.
A/N: Thank you so much for all your kind comments! It makes me want to post more chapters. : )
He lay down on the floor with his head on a small pillow next to Ginny. She played with his hair as they sat in silence. It wasn't a tense or awkward silence, just them sitting together quietly. They had done this a few times in the past couple weeks since he was let out of the infirmary. He never knew how nice something as simple as playing with hair could feel. He closed his eyes under the relaxing feeling.
He looked up into her eyes and cleared his throat. "Ginny, I like you a lot. Would you like to go out with me sometime?" he asked with the confidence of an experienced man.
She smiled and cried, "I'd love to!"
He sat up and kissed her soundly on the lips.
"You're the best kisser I've ever known," Ginny declared.
"Harry, wake up. You need to get back to bed."
"Mrrrhh… what?" he slurred intelligently.
Ginny laughed lightly. "You fell asleep, silly. We should both get back to bed, it's late."
Harry blushed. "Oh, yeah, sorry about that. I didn't know I fell asleep."
"One rarely does," Ginny concluded. "G'night, Harry."
"Yeah, see you in the morning."
He felt awful. Dirty. Like a jerk. He had a dream about Ginny! While he was sleeping on her! How sick is that? Of course, it was only kissing and a rather pathetically uncreative dream, but still. He felt like such a horrible friend to have done that. What's worse, he still hadn't told her how he felt, only in the dream.
He went to bed and fell asleep quickly, despite the thoughts about Ginny running through his head. She had calmed him once again. He would tell her one day, he vowed to himself.
The next morning Ron, Ginny, and Hermione left for home. Harry had made an extra big breakfast with eggs, waffles, bacon, and a few other sides. His friends were shocked by the amount of food and had jokingly inquired if Dobby had helped. Harry just grinned and served them all.
"Thanks for staying this week, you guys," he said as he sat down to eat with them.
Hermione squeezed his hand briefly and said, "It was a good time. We'll definitely do it again, and soon."
Harry looked up at her with some surprised disbelief on his face and asked, "Really?" His voice sounded too much like a young child for his liking, but no one seemed to notice.
"Of course, mate. We've got this place to ourselves! It's great, no one to nag us to do something productive constantly. We can just have fun all the time!" Ron exclaimed with vigor.
Ginny spoke beside him and he couldn't help but smile upon hearing her voice. "Yeah, just invite us over whenever you want to explore the forest or work in the garden. I had a great time this week, we all did. I know we have to spend some time at home with mum or she'll go nutters, but I much prefer it here."
"You're all welcome here anytime. The wards are set to admit you without me having to let you in, so you can stop by even if I'm not here… say to secretly do my laundry or something," Harry commented in a flat tone.
Hermione just stared at him. Ron choked on his eggs, and Ginny laughed her bubbly infectious laughter.
"Mate, if you think I'm gonna sneak in to wash your clothes, I think you need to have Pomfrey check your head again," Ron teased. Harry stuck out his tongue at him.
All too soon, from Harry's point of view, his friends had gone. He took a shower and dressed in some casual muggle clothes. No matter how comfortable he had gotten in wizards robes, there was nothing so nice as muggle shorts and a t-shirt on a hot summer day. He cleaned up after his guests and puttered around his garden for a while. There really wasn't anything to do with it yet. The seeds had only been planted for a few days, and he realized that it had rained sometime during the night, so he didn't even have to water the soil.
Harry wondered what kind of plants Remus would have wanted in the garden. He didn't seem like a flower guy, but he was rather sweet and good at keeping secrets. Harry smiled, imagining the pale man cutting off buds for flower arrangements. That would certainly be an amusing sight. He probably would have wanted herbs and vegetables, which was what Harry and his friends had planted. Hermione and Ginny insisted on a few small flowering plants, but they were unobtrusive, so he didn't mind.
His heart wrenched with the thought of never seeing the older man again. His second father-figure gone. He was ashamed to admit that he hadn't even considered his real father in the counting of father-figures. Three gone, dead, because of him. He should be glad that there were no more in line to take up the role again. They'd only end up dead or missing as well. When he dwelled on his emotions, they went in all directions. Sometimes he was so certain that Remus was just going to walk through the front door that he would have to drag himself away doing something else and remind himself that the man may not come back. Other times, he would almost drown in the misery of his loss. At those times, he would try to remind himself that they didn't have confirmation either way, and Remus could still be alive somewhere.
He went inside and watched a little television. There wasn't really anything on that interested him, but he kept flipping channels for an hour. Finally, he decided to take a nap. He really needed to find something to do with his days. His friends had only been gone a matter of hours and he was bored out of his mind.
As he was drifting to sleep, a certain red-head entered his subconscious and filled his mind with blissful images and feelings. At least his dream relationship with Ginny was going well. He woke up with a silly smile on his face, which quickly changed to a guilty grin. He noticed that he had a slight layer of sweat on his body and half-heartedly tried to convince himself that it was due to the warm weather (his mind was obediently ignoring the cooling charms on the house). He decided to take another shower, since he had that luxury.
Not many people would consider a shower a luxury, but not many people had lived with the Dursleys either. Nor had they lived in a crowded dorm with five roommates for seven years. There were certain perks to living alone, Harry decided as he just stood under the stream and didn't worry about someone needing to get in or about getting to classes on time.
He dressed in long pants and pulled a light jacket over his t-shirt. He liked the evenings when the air cooled off and it wasn't uncomfortably hot or cold outside.
Harry didn't feel like cooking for himself and decided on a walk. He made his way to the Three Broomsticks and sat at the bar. He had never sat there before, but it seemed a waste to use up a whole table on himself.
Madam Rosmerta approached with a smile. "Wanting something to eat, I suppose?"
Harry smiled, "Yes, ma'am. I'd also like to talk to you about that opening if you have the time. I can come back if you don't right now."
She went to the back and came out with a tray of good smelling food. Harry thanked her and set about eating. He was nearly finished when she came back and refilled his butterbeer.
"Now, about this job…" she trailed off.
"Yes, ma'am. Would you be willing to hire me?" he asked directly.
"Do you have any experience or references?" she asked with a straight face. A man at the end of the bar snorted into his glass, but she pointedly ignored him. Harry thought he saw the corners of her mouth twitch, but wasn't sure if she was joking, so he answered.
"Well, I have loads of experience cleaning and some cooking. I don't know about references. The professors at Hogwarts might speak for me, depending on who you ask." He wasn't sure how to answer these questions. In truth, he had no experience in anything relating to the running of a pub, but he was hopeful nonetheless. She hadn't told him no, and that was enough for him.
The man at the end of the bar grunted a laugh and spoke in a grizzly voice. "Say, Rosie, don't go pulling the lad's leg like that. Having him work here will triple your business overnight."
"You stay out of this, Angus," she glared at the man. Harry had the urge to hex him for interrupting his impromptu interview. "Now, Harry, about this 'ma'am' business. If you're going to be coming around, you need to call me Rosie, got that?"
"Yes, ma- Rosie," he smiled.
"Why do you want this job, Harry?" she asked curiously.
Harry shrugged. "I need something to do… and I kind of just wanted to do something normal and relaxing for a while. That doesn't mean I'll do a poor job or anything," he rushed to assure her, "…just that, well, I'm sick of fighting evil for now. Does that sound completely stupid?" he asked with a groan at his inability to articulate what he wanted.
She smiled gently, "It sounds very wise, Harry. I, for one, am glad you're taking a break. I've heard quite a bit about your years up at the castle, and they haven't been easy, eh?"
"No, Rosie, they haven't," he replied quietly, trying not to think about all that had happened since he came into the wizarding world.
"I've just one more question for you. We get a lot of folk in here, and ninety-nine out of a hundred are good, decent people, but there are those rare ugly characters. Have you any experience with more… unpleasant drunks?" she asked directly.
Harry frowned as a shadow crossed his face. "Only one," he replied quietly.
She seemed a little surprised at his response, and clearly wanted to know more, but didn't ask, for which he was glad.
"Well, Mr. Potter," she said in a false-business like tone, effectively lightening the mood, "You may start tomorrow at three in the afternoon. Just come over and I'll show you the ropes."
"Really?" Harry's eyes lit up. "Thank you so much, Rosie. I can't wait!"
He jumped off his stool and hugged her briefly before he paid and left the pub. He was full of good food and accomplishment. He wasn't naïve enough to think he had gotten the job strictly on his own merits, but he knew he could prove himself to be a good, hard worker. He was excited to make a name for himself that he had earned, not that his mother had provided.
He had a bounce in his step on the short walk home. The village was nice at night. Torches along the streets lit them with a comforting glow, and houses had light spilling out of windows and onto the walking path. He'd come to enjoy the nighttime walks along the streets with his friends over the past week. It was nice by himself too, but a bit too empty and quiet.
He walked into his house and smiled at Hedwig as she greeted him. He read from one of the advanced Defence Against the Dark Arts tomes that he received from Remus and Sirius for Christmas in fifth year. He had read it all before, but he still found it interesting, and it was something from his godfathers. He never was sure what to think of Remus. He wasn't his godfather, but he had taken up the role after Sirius died. He was kind of like an uncle or older cousin, but the only other uncle and cousin Harry had experience with were not to be compared with his true family. At times, like now, he would simply refer to Sirius and Remus together as 'godfathers.' He was amazed that two people as great as them had taken him into their lives. He hated that he had caused their deaths. Disappearance!, his mind screamed in regard to Remus.
When he was tired of reading, he fixed himself a bowl of ice cream with chocolate on top and watched some animated shows on the television for a while. They didn't require much attention, so he let his mind wander and eventually go blank. He put the bowl in the sink and went to bed. Harry was excited to have something to do the next day and decided to get up early to inquire at Honeyduke's in the morning. He fell asleep quickly in the silent, lonely house.
He was in the middle of fixing breakfast early the next morning when a loud crack alerted him to Dobby's presence. He sighed, but found he was rather pleased to have someone to talk to, and he had always been fond of the excitable house elf.
"Good morning, Dobby."
"Hello, Harry Potter, sir. Can Dobby help the great Harry Potter?" he asked with wide eyes.
Harry laughed. "Sure, why don't you finish up the eggs and bacon while I set the table. Are you going to eat with me, Dobby?"
Dobby's eyes started shimmering. "Harry Potter asks Dobby to take a meal with him? Harry Potter grows greater every day!" he cried.
Harry cringed a bit at the over-emotional elf. "Dobby, you know I've always considered you an equal. It's been five years now. Of course I'd welcome you to eat with me. Can you try to calm down any?" he asked gently, not wanting the small elf to burst into more tears.
Dobby perked up and smiled at Harry. He wasn't sure if it was real or if the house elf considered it an order. Harry decided he didn't really care at the moment. It was way too early in the morning to deal with a wailing Dobby. The calm one was much nicer to interact with.
After breakfast, Harry convinced Dobby to leave after the kitchen was cleaned up. He left the house and arrived at Honeyduke's before the store was open. He smacked himself in the head for not realizing they had later summer hours, or perhaps student weekends were the only early hours? With a shrug of the shoulders, Harry wandered over to a bench and decided to wait while watching the birds flit through the trees.
It wasn't more than a quarter of an hour before the door to the incredible candy shop was propped open to the warm summer morning.
Harry walked in and was greeted by the old proprietor with a smiling face.
"Good morning, Mr. Potter. Out of sweets already?" he asked with sparkling eyes. Harry had been in just two days before with his friends and they had stocked up quite well. He hadn't asked about job opportunities simply because it didn't cross his mind when he was fooling around with his friends.
Harry smiled and a pink tinge colored his normally pale cheeks. "No, sir. I had a question, actually." Harry paused, not sure why this was difficult to ask.
"Go ahead, son, business is slow this time of day."
"Well, I was wondering if you could use any help. I'd like a job, and I thought this would be a nice place to work. Do you, er, have any openings?" he asked hopefully.
He smiled down at Harry. "In truth, I haven't been looking for anyone." Harry's face fell. He was about to mutter his thanks and leave when the man started talking again. "Although, it is getting difficult to stock the shelves at times. You see, some of the products can't be moved with levitation charms, do to their own magical properties. I suppose I could use a few hours of help in the mornings a couple days a week. I'm afraid I can't pay you much, though."
"Oh, that's ok, sir. I'm not looking for a job for the money. I just need to do something… I wouldn't need payment at all, really. I mean you weren't even looking to hire anyone, and I don't want to impose on you like that. Er, what do you think?"
"I insist on compensating you in some fashion. I recall you are quite fond of chocolate frogs, correct?" Harry grinned. "I see. Well, we shall work something out. I'm well stocked for now. Would you like to come in on Wednesday morning?"
"Call me Dave," the old shopkeeper smiled.
"Thank you, Dave. Call me Harry. When would you like me to be here?"
"Oh, how about seven o'clock. That will give us a couple hours until the shop opens so I can show you where everything is. Can you make it that early, Harry?"
"Sure. I'm also starting at the Three Broomsticks today. Shall we talk more about my schedule on Wednesday?" Harry asked, excited about his new job.
"That will be fine, Harry."
"Thank you sir, I mean Dave."
"See you in two days, bright and early, Harry."
"Have a good day," Harry called while walking out the door. He was very excited about his two new jobs. He couldn't wait to get started.
Harry walked home and meandered down the path through the forest to the little pond he had discovered with his friends. He was able to watch a few animals while he sat on the soft grass, enjoying the nice day. He liked that the forest stayed relatively cool, even when it got to be noon and the sun was beating down mercilessly where the ground wasn't shaded.
Watching some tall grass swaying in the unnoticeable wind, Harry's mind wandered to long, red hair and the girl attached. Ginny had really enjoyed this part of the forest too. Harry wondered if they went camping in the future, would she sleep next to him? He blushed again, then laughed at himself. He had to be the only person able to embarrass himself in front of only himself.
How was he going to tell her how he felt? She would probably laugh in his face and tell him it was 'too little, too late.' She had gotten over her silly crush long ago. Of course, Harry knew she wouldn't laugh in his face. She was too kind to do that. No, she would gently explain to him that they weren't meant for each other. She would offer to remain friends, but Harry knew they wouldn't be. Not after he declared something like that. They would go to a polite, civil friendship and lose the closeness they had built up over the past three years.
Not for the first time Harry cursed his brain and emotions for taking so long to notice Ginny. If he had only figured it out years ago, he wouldn't be in this mess.
Sighing, he glanced at his watch and made his way back to his house. His house. It still had a nice ring to it.
It was two o'clock when he was back in the kitchen fixing a late lunch. He ate quickly and left a half hour before he needed to be at work. He knew he would get there early, but he had learned from potions classes that early lost fewer points than late.
Harry smiled at Madam Rosmerta when he entered. She was serving a table of local villagers. A couple of them waved at Harry, and he timidly waved back. Madam Rosmerta slapped one man in fun and said something that made the rest of the table laugh. He had the distinct impression they were laughing at him, but didn't know why. They didn't seem to mean any harm in it, so he let it go and sat at the bar.
"Hello, Harry. How are you today?" asked Madam Rosmerta.
"I'm great! I'm really excited to start working, Mad – Rosie." He smiled sheepishly at his slip.
"You are a charmer, aren't you, Mr. Potter?" she said wryly. He just smiled again, and she continued. "Alright, I'll show you around the kitchen first. I don't expect that you'll cook much, but you'll need to know where things are to serve. By the way, I spoke to one of your references."
"You did?" Harry asked surprised. He hadn't even given her specific names.
"Yes, I talked to Albus Dumbledore last night. He told me to inform him if I had any problems with you. Should I expect trouble, Harry?" she asked with a small smile.
"No, Rosie, I won't be any trouble. Er, well, not on purpose, anyway. I guess trouble does have a way of finding me… hmm…"
"That's quite alright, Harry. As long as you're not the cause, I'm sure we'll have no problems." She showed him where the utensils and dishes were. She also described the what the different glasses were used for. Harry had no idea serving alcoholic drinks was so complicated. Who knew that everything had its own special glass?
A chime sounded and Rosie stopped her tour. "I need to check on a customer. I'll be right back."
Harry sat on a stool that stood next to a counter. He glanced around at the small, but well stocked kitchen and giggled to himself. He was actually giddy to have a job. It was a good feeling. He knew it wasn't what some people would expect from The Boy-Who-Lived, but he didn't care what they thought. He reveled in the normality of the work. He wasn't saving the world. It wasn't life or death. He was serving drinks and listening to customers. Or, he would be when he was finished training.
He found it ironic that the kind of work forced upon him when he was younger was something he was glad to do now. It was something to keep his mind of less pleasant things, like Remus, or confusing things, like Ginny. Some small part of his brain told him that he would also be very good at his job, since he had been doing it for his relatives ever since he could remember. Of course, this would be different. He would do everything willingly, and with a smile. The people he served wouldn't cringe away from him like a disease. He hoped they would tell stories and laugh late into the nights.
He knew that without his friends there, he could easily slip into a lethargic, depressed state. He was a strong person, but having lost so much sometimes made him wonder what or who he was being strong for. He never let himself dwell on those thoughts long. It was a dangerous pastime. Hence, the need for a job to occupy himself.
Rosie came back and finished detailing the kitchen to him. They were about to go back into the restaurant area when she told him to sit back on the stool and pulled up one for herself.
"I have two more questions that I wanted to ask you in private. Harry, I understand that you are still in some amount of danger." Harry was a bit startled with this change in conversation topic. "I'm not telling you this to make you leave. I just want to know that you will tell me if you think something is going on. I'm fully aware that you can take care of yourself, but working here gives us the responsibility to take care of the customers too. If you ever notice something strange, I expect you to tell me straight away. Is that understood?"
Harry nodded. "Yes, I understand. I will always try my best to tell you if something happens. Your other question?"
"You are not required to give me an answer to my next question, but I would appreciate it if you did. Do you have any medical conditions that could affect your work or potentially cause harm to yourself or others?" she asked businesslike.
Harry swallowed. Should he tell her about the bouts of exhaustion? He had his potion that he kept on him at all times, now. He didn't really want anyone else to know about his 'condition' than already did. Although, what if he collapsed at work and no one knew what was happening? He didn't want to cause Rosie that worry.
She sat patiently waiting for his answer. "Since the last fight with Voldemort," she suppressed a flinch. "I have been occasionally overtired. Madam Pomfrey said it would probably go away with time and rest…" he trailed off, not really sure what she wanted to hear and wondering if that was enough of an explanation.
"Can you tell me anymore about it? Do you just get a little sleepy, or is it something more than that?" she asked gently. He hesitated, and she put a hand on his shoulder. "You have my word that I won't tell anyone, Harry. I just want to know if it's serious so I know what to expect if it happens. Is that alright?"
"Yeah… I get completely drained sometimes. I have a potion to take when it happens, but it just gives me energy for about a half hour, so I can get someplace safe to sleep. It doesn't happen very often, and usually I've been doing fairly stressful things when it's happened. The only thing I can do is go to bed if that happens. Is that ok?" he asked shyly.
"Of course it is, dear. If it does happen, just let me know and you can nap in the office or someone can walk you home."
"You don't have to do that. I can walk home myself. The potion will give me plenty of time to get there."
"Humor me, Harry," she smirked. He finally agreed and they moved on to the bar area. He was glad to leave the topic of his health and watched in fascination as she mixed a few drinks. It was disturbingly like potions, without the danger of blowing up the room. He found he could mix the drinks just fine under Rosie's tutelage and briefly wondered if she could teach him potions. He snickered at the thought. He couldn't learn from a 'Potions Master' but could from a pub owner.
The pub got more crowded as the day wore on into night. After a few hours, Harry was allowed to serve tables on his own, but he couldn't mix the drinks, yet. He hadn't made very many earlier in the day, and Rosie wanted to start him off slow. So, he was happily carrying trays to and from tables, earning strange looks from most of the establishments customers.
Finally, one person got up the courage (or enough alcohol) to ask the question everyone wanted to know.
"You're Harry Potter, right?"
"Yes," Harry replied.
"You defeated You-Know-Who?"
"If 'You-Know-Who' is Voldemort, then yes, I did." It bothered him that people still weren't using the real name instead of stupid phrases. Of course, most of the people within hearing range flinched at the name.
"Why are you working in a bar in a tiny village?"
Harry smiled. "I needed work, and Madam Rosmerta needed help. I got lucky."
A witch spoke up. "But surely you could have found work somewhere more suitable."
"Suitable for whom? I'm happy here."
"Don't you think you're overqualified for this job?" a different wizard asked.
"I wasn't aware everyone was looking at my resume. Just out of curiosity, what qualifications do I have? I've never own or operated a business. So, if anything, I'm under qualified for this job, but I am learning," he said with a smile.
"Harry, can you help me in the kitchen a moment?" asked Rosie.
Harry nodded and followed her in.
"You're causing quite a stir out there," she commented.
"I'm sorry," he said with a grimace. "I didn't think people would actually come and question me on my job choices. Merlin, what do they want from me? I never asked to be their hero," he muttered.
"People need heroes, Harry. Just put up with it a bit more, and they'll see that this is what you want and leave you alone. I hope you're having fun out there," she half-asked.
Harry smiled. "Oh, I am. Everyone is so happy and friendly. Well, until the minor inquisition, but you're right, it'll pass."
They left for the main room again and Harry saw a sight that made his grin almost split his face in two. Professors McGonagall, Hagrid, and Flitwick were seated at a table in the middle of the floor.
Harry walked over and asked them, "Can I get you anything, Professors?"
"'Arry," Hagrid boomed. "It's great ta see yeh smilin' again. I'll just have a butterbeer tonight."
"I'll have the same, Mr. Potter. I must say, I was a little surprised when I spoke to the Headmaster this morning. I don't remember discussing restaurant management in our career sessions," McGonagall said with a stern look. It softened into a smile and she whispered for his ears only, "I'm glad you've taken your own path, Harry. I'm very proud of you, and I know James and Sirius would be too. Lily might have accused them of corrupting you, but she would be here on your first night if she could."
Harry swallowed hard around the lump in his throat and blinked several times. He had rarely heard such personal or touching things from his old head of house, but it meant a lot to him that she told him that. He noticed that she didn't mention Remus, but he didn't bring it up. Instead he turned to little Professor Flitwick.
"I'm afraid I'll be going against the trend once more," he said with a few squeaks. "I'll have cherry syrup and soda with ice and an umbrella."
Harry chuckled. "It's not butterbeer, but I don't think that's against the trend for you, professor."
"And how would you know what I drink, Mr. Potter? I don't think I've been in here with students around since your third year when you were most certainly not allowed in Hogsmeade."
Harry blushed and avoided his eyes. "Er, I'll just go get those drinks, professors."
He heard laughter behind him and his face burned even brighter red. He was excited when he saw the professors, but now he knew they were only there to humiliate him. Well, not really, but it was a little embarrassing.
The night went on, and Harry had a good time serving and chatting with customers. The room started to empty around eleven o'clock, and by midnight the last of the stragglers were gone. Harry and Rosie took a half hour to clean up the biggest messes, then called it quits. Rosie informed him that she did the complete cleaning in the mornings before opening. She asked him to come back at the same time the next day.
Harry walked down the silent streets of the village, looking at the stars above. Looking up while walking isn't the most intelligent thing to do, which Harry learned when he walked chin first into a tree. He sped his way home after that, alternately cursing himself and laughing at his stupidity.
He crashed into bed with the satisfied sleepiness that comes from a day of work. Sleep came quickly and was relatively dreamless.
The next morning he spent some time out in the garden. He could see some seedlings coming up and a few weeds. He pulled up the weeds and threw them in the edge of the woods behind his house. He heard a quiet whimper and went to see what it was.
He pushed back a bush to see a medium sized, older puppy. It was a German Shepard if he could remember right from some of Aunt Marge's pictures of dog shows. He looked around for any other dogs or people and finding none, brought the puppy back to the house. He decided to ask around the pub that night to see if anyone had lost a dog. Meanwhile, he fed it some left over eggs and bacon from breakfast and played with it in the backyard.
"What's your name, little guy?" he asked rhetorically. "I'm going to call you Simon until we find your owners. Is that ok with you?"
The large puppy tilted his head to the side, then jumped up and barked his agreement. Harry laughed and threw the stick they had been playing with. Simon chased after it and brought it back with a proud look.
Harry stopped playing with Simon when it was time for him to get cleaned up and eat before going to work. He wondered what he should do with the dog. It did seem rather intelligent for a puppy. It had learned the fetch game and a few other tricks in the space of two hours. Maybe he could just ask it to stay in his yard and it would understand. He also asked Hedwig to keep an eye on the pup.
Harry got to work on time, despite the one-sided argument he'd had with his owl. She seemed to think she was too good to be a dog-sitter, so he bribed her with bacon. It worked every time. He wondered if it was weird that he had talked more to animals that day than he usually did with people on a normal day. Then he decided he didn't care.
That night he asked around the bar, but no one seemed to know anything about a missing dog. He let everyone know that he would keep it until the owners were found. He asked everyone to let him know if they heard anything.
He had another fun night of work and returned home to find the puppy sleeping by the back door. Harry invited him inside for the night and went to bed soon after. The dog was sleeping on the floor at the foot of his bed. It was nice to have someone else in the house. Hedwig was usually out all night hunting. He decided living alone might not be all bad with his pets there.
He woke up at six the next morning after only four hours of sleep. He decided right then that he needed to arrange his Honeyduke's morning not to come after a Three Broomsticks night. He felt more refreshed after breakfast and a shower. He let Simon outside with the same directions as the day before and went to his other job.
Harry avoided looking at Dave as he showed him around the basement of the store. Harry had been there many times due to the tunnel directly to Hogwarts, but he didn't want his new employer to know that. He just looked around with interest at the different products in storage.
His time at the candy shop wasn't as exciting as at the pub, because he worked before the store opened, but it was relaxing in a different way. He was allowed to listen to the Wizard Wireless Network while he filed away stacks of goodies in the different shelves.
He was finished at Honeyduke's at eleven, so he decided to go home and have lunch. Dave made sure he left with a handful of chocolate frogs, for which Harry thanked him repeatedly.
He made his way to the Three Broomsticks shortly after cleaning up his lunch and feeding Simon one of his pot pies. He also wrote a short note to Hagrid explaining the puppy and asking for advice on food and other general puppy care.
Harry walked through the door of the pub and greeted Rosie with a smile and a quick hello before he went in the back to wash his hands.
He came out and asked, "What can I help you with, Rosie?"
"You're quite an eager worker, Harry. I must say I'm impressed so far. Would you mind cleaning up the kitchen for me? I didn't have the chance this morning."
"Of course. The cleaning supplies are in the tall cabinet on the left, right?" Harry asked for clarification.
"Yes, they are. Good memory you've got in that unruly head."
Harry laughed when she laughed and left to clean the kitchen. He scrubbed the counters until they shined like a newly pressed galleon after organizing the store cupboard and cleaning up any other miscellaneous mess. He glanced out into the serving area and saw that Rosie had things well under control, so he filled up another bucket of water and cleaner and went to work on the grimy floor. It looked like it hadn't had a proper scrubbing in years, which was probably the case. He knew it was swept every few days, but he doubted it got more treatment than that very often.
His mind wandered again to Remus and what he would think of Harry's job. Harry was sure he would support whatever he decided to do. He wished Remus was there. He even imagined him sitting out in the bar. The image became so real that Harry was forced to stick his head out the door and find out for sure. He was sorely disappointed and had to spend a few minutes breathing deeply to get his emotions under control again. He was glad no one needed anything in those few minutes. He steered his thoughts instead to Ginny. She always made him feel better, whether in person or in thought, and she didn't let him down. He was lost in the memory of one of his more questionable dreams when he heard footsteps approaching. He was just finishing up when Rosie opened the door into him and he jerked.
"I'm sorry, Harry, I didn't know you were back there."
"Oh, it's alright, Rosie. I'm just about finished," Harry replied.
Rosie didn't say anything for a few minutes, so he dumped the contents out of the cleaning bucket and walked over to her.
"Is everything ok, Rosie?" he asked a little concerned. She hadn't moved or said anything since entering the kitchen. He hoped he hadn't screwed anything up too badly.
"Harry, how did you get this place so clean?" she asked quietly.
"I just scrubbed it for a while. Do you want me to do anything else in here?" he asked.
"No, no, you've done a wonderful job. Have you been working straight this whole time?"
"Well, er, yes. I hadn't finished until now." Harry was a little confused. Maybe she didn't want the kitchen so clean. Perhaps it was one of those wizard things he had never learned. It seemed odd, but after seven years in a magical community he did discount anything without proof.
"Harry, it's almost ten o'clock," she said exasperated.
"It is? Merlin, I'm sorry. I'll do it faster next time, I swear," Harry promised. He wondered if he'd blown the job after only three days. She didn't look exactly pleased with how long the cleaning had taken him. Of course, she didn't really seem mad either. He was confused.
"Harry, you should have taken a break for supper. In fact, you should have taken more than one break in the time you've been working in here. Hagrid is here, go sit with him and I'll bring you something to eat."
"It's ok, Rosie. I can just have a quick bite if you need anything else."
Rosie smiled. "Kid, you're way too helpful for your own good. It's time to take a break. Go sit." She pointed to the door and Harry obeyed.
The half-giant wasn't hard to find among the tables, and Harry quickly made his way to him and sat down.
"Evenin', Harry. How are yeh likin' yer job?" Hagrid asked.
Harry smiled widely. "I really like it, Hagrid. It's nice not to have to sit home alone all day."
Rosie walked up with a plate. "Here you are, Harry. I'm letting you off for the rest of the night, so you can stay and chat as late as you want or go home to rest."
Harry nodded unenthusiastically. He was worried that he'd really messed up somehow tonight. Harry thought Rosie had looked pleased by the kitchen, but maybe he was wrong.
"Harry," she called his attention.
"You are not in trouble. I'm very impressed with your work. I just think you've done more than enough for tonight, so you're free to go when you wish. Besides, it's not all that busy and we'll probably clear out early anyway. I'll see you tomorrow, Harry."
Harry nodded, feeling relieved. He would just have to try and remember to take breaks next time. It never occurred to him to stop working before he was done. Completing his assigned tasks had been drilled into his head by punishments from his aunt and uncle when he left things incomplete. Usually, he had so many chores to do in a day that he had to work straight to get even half done. If he had ever been caught taking a break, he didn't even want to imagine what would have happened.
"I got yer letter," said Hagrid, mercifully pulling Harry away from his thoughts of the Dursleys.
"Oh? Oh, the dog. Do you have any idea who he might belong to?" Harry asked.
"Nah, I haven't heard of a lost dog 'round these parts for at least a couple years. Sometimes magical pups show up in strange places. I can take a look at 'im and see if he's had magic infusion if you like."
"What is magic infusion? I haven't heard of regular breeds of dogs being magical."
"Tha's 'cause most aren't. Some wizard breeders use special spells and potions on their dogs to make 'em more intelligent, faster, or whatever other thing they want. I'd like ter meet the little guy," said Hagrid with a kiddish grin.
Harry smiled. "Sure. I'm about finished here," Harry said pointing to his plate. "Are you in a hurry to get back to the castle, or do you want to come now? I understand it's pretty late and all…"
"Now is jus' fine, Harry," assured Hagrid as he downed the rest of his mulled mead in one gulp.
They both said their goodbyes to Madam Rosmerta and left the pub. Harry liked walking next to Hagrid. It made him feel invisible to the eyes of the public.
When they approached the house, Harry went around back instead of going inside. The pup was laying outside the backdoor again, as calm as can be.
"I've decided to call him Simon until the owners come. I'm not sure what to feed him though, like I told you in the letter. I've just been giving him table scraps so far. He seems to like them, but are they good for a dog?"
Hagrid looked at the pup closely and spoke a few words Harry didn't know. The dog glowed a soft golden brown for a minute, then it faded. Hagrid nodded to himself.
"Yeh, tha's a magically infused German Shepard you got there. They say the dogs go where they're needed, so I guess Simon's needed here. He seems to have chosen you, Harry. Great honor, that. These dogs can sense character better than any animal or device I've seen. Put a sneak-o-scope to shame, they can."
"What? But I can't have a dog," said Harry with surprise.
"I'm not allo-" Harry started to say, but stopped. He was allowed now. He was an adult and had his own house and two jobs. He should be able to have a dog if he wanted. But could he take care of one? Granted, this one seemed to take care of himself pretty well. He decided it was worth a shot. The worst that could happen would be the dog leaving again. He made himself believe that was the worst that could happen. He hated having to convince himself of things; it was really very hard to argue against your own brain.
Harry smiled at the dog. "Well, Simon. Do you want to stay with me?" The dog barked excitedly and wagged his tail.
"I'll send yeh some food," Hagrid offered.
"Oh, you don't have to do that, Hagrid. Could you just tell me where to get it?" Harry asked.
"Well, there isn' a place here in town for it. I have it delivered. I'll send enough over for a few days with the order form. How's that?" Hagrid grinned through his bushy facial hair.
Harry nodded. "Thanks, Hagrid. Do you want to come inside for some night tea?" Harry asked politely. He was actually too tired to have guests at the moment, but years of politeness training wouldn't let him get away without at least offering. He felt a little guilty when he couldn't stifle a yawn.
Hagrid just smiled and shook his head. "It's abou' midnight already. You should get to bed, young man," Hagrid mock-scolded. "See yeh again soon, Harry. G'night, Simon." The pup bowed in reply making Harry and Hagrid laugh.
As much as he enjoyed the half-giant's company, it really was time for bed. He'd had a long day and just wanted to crawl under the soft blankets and go to sleep.
He let Hedwig out for her night hunting, and Simon curled up on the floor by the foot of his bed again. The two animals didn't seem to mind one another. They appeared to be completely ignorant to the fact that there was another animal in the vicinity. Harry shrugged, it was better than having an owl-dog battle in his bedroom. He giggled sleepily at the thought of charging admission to such an event and drifted off.
Harry cursed his early rising mind when it was clear that his body simply did not agree with the idea of getting out of the comfortable bed. He compromised by taking a long lazy bath instead of a quick shower like usual. His muscles were somewhat sore after the hard cleaning he'd done the night before, and the hot water felt good.
Eventually, he pulled himself out and got dressed for the day. He was excited to go to work already and it was only ten in the morning! He busied himself with food and a movie while he ate.
The movie was about some teenagers that had overdramatic love-lives. The characters acted like dating was the most important thing in life. Harry wondered if that was what his teenage years were supposed to have been like. He had to admit that not everyone worried about being killed on an almost daily basis for the majority of their adolescence.
He remembered the trouble he'd had with Cho and briefly with Susan. Those relationships (if he could really call them that) dominated his thoughts when there wasn't a life or death situation at hand. Of course, he seemed to have more problems than fun with relationships, and he could contribute that to one more thing Voldemort managed to disrupt in his life.
He felt bad about Susan. She had been something to help get his mind off of Sirius at the time. They had never gotten very serious at all, but he still felt guilty. He'd finally made himself explain to her that he didn't think they should date, but he had really never meant to hurt her. She was really great about it and they became friends. Not overly close friends, but they were able to have fun and talk to each other without any awkwardness. He hadn't tried with anyone after Susan. He became too involved in the war and simply didn't have the time if he had any hope of staying caught up in his classes.
Now there was no war to stop him. No Voldemort to interrupt his life. He thought of Ginny and smiled. He hoped there was something there. He would never know until he talked to her about it, but he was afraid. Simple as that. He could freely admit it (in his head) despite being a courageous Gryffindor. If he told her, she would reject him and their friendship might be damaged. If she did, by some miracle, accept him, he would lose the Weasleys as the only people he could call family. He'd seen how her older brothers reacted to her boyfriends. They were not welcome.
He struggled out of his thoughts and continued watching the movie. He laughed a few times at the main character's friends. They lightened the mood a bit from the rather serious romantics happening. He felt horrible for the girl when she found out the boy she liked had lied to her. But he also felt bad for the guy; he'd never intended to hurt her. Things just got all mixed up. It was similar to the confusion he'd experienced with Cho when she was jealous of Hermione back in fifth year. He was very happy when the two characters resolved their misunderstandings and kissed to make up. He caught himself blushing as he pictured he and Ginny standing in that sunset, wrapped in each other's arms.
He shook his head, 'Get a hold of yourself, Potter. That's your best friend's sister, who doesn't like you.' It didn't matter how many times he told himself that. He couldn't get rid of the feelings that he had developed for her, and if he was honest with himself, he didn't want to.
Harry readied for work and headed out for another enjoyable night at the Three Broomsticks. His duties were much the same as they had been the past few nights, and he was able to join in on more of the banter from the local patrons. They no longer questioned his reasons for working in a pub and started to build a gently teasing relationship with the boy. Harry loved it. A few comments were similar to his aunt and uncle's about his 'scruffy head' or the like, only without any hint of malice.
When Harry arrived home that evening, he was in a good mood, which only got better when he found Pig, Ron's tiny owl, flitting around his room. He removed two scrolls and set out a saucer of water next to an owl treat.
He unrolled the first, which was written in Ron's messy hand.
How has your first week on your own been? Mum heard from Dumbledore that you got the job at the Three Broomsticks! I hope you're having fun, mate. I've been keeping busy talking to some Ministry people dad knows. He thinks I can get a job there for a few months until we get our N.E.W.T. results and decide what to do. Have you heard from Hermione? If not, I'm sure you will soon. I knew she liked books, but I can't believe she's actually working with them! Ack! I don't think I'll ever understand that witch. Anyway, I'm working on getting over to your place to visit again. Of course, mum wants you to come here instead. You know how she is. I gotta go degnome the garden.
Harry smiled at the offer of joining the Weasleys at the Burrow. He would be sure to arrange a visit soon, but he wanted to work a while before asking for time off. He wondered what Ron had done to earn the punishment of degnoming the garden, then decided he didn't want to know. He picked up Ginny's letter and his heart fluttered. He told himself he was acting like a girl and forced his shaking hands to steady. However, this may only have been achieved because he pressed them against his thighs.
How are you faring? I bet you're bored out of your mind, but you have a job to keep you busy. I'm so excited for you! How do you like it? What's it like working in a pub? You must tell me. I've been busy working on summer assignments. I want to get them all out of the way early so I don't have them hanging over my head all summer. Hey, what do you think about going to some National League games this summer? I'll ask Ron to look at the schedule, although you probably have one too come to think of it. Write soon!
Harry decided he didn't care if Hedwig, Simon, and Pig looked at him strange, he wasn't even trying to hide the grin after reading her letter. He laughed to himself in excitement at the prospect of seeing a professional Quidditch match. The only one he'd seen was the World Cup before everything came crashing down in his life. He'd forgotten that he would be free to go to games now with minimal security risk. He guessed that Dumbledore would encourage a guard or two, but decided it would be worth it. Heck, maybe he'd invite Tonks along. She was a more than worthy opponent for anyone daring enough to come at them, and she had the added bonus of being a lot of fun.
Harry decided to write them back in the morning. He could barely keep his eyes open and fell asleep on the couch. He woke up sometime around four and made it to his bed where he crashed again.
The following days were much the same as the rest of the week. He replied to Ron and Ginny, telling them both that it would be great to go to a few Quidditch games this summer and that they were welcome to visit anytime. He said he was having a great time at work, which was true, and told them about the additional hours at Honeyduke's.
He worked late Friday and Saturday night, and Madam Rosmerta gave him Sunday and Monday off. She said that he could expect a normal schedule of Tuesday through Saturday with hours starting at three until closing time, which varied depending on the day and number of customers. If he wanted other days off, all he had to do was tell her ahead of time. She made sure he was clear on that point. He grinned and asked if it was alright to take time off for Quidditch games. She told him he could even have an after-party in the pub. He was relieved that he didn't have to worry about asking for time off.
Ron, Hermione, and Ginny came over on Sunday for a few hours in the afternoon, then they all went to the Burrow for supper. Predictably, Mrs. Weasley fussed over Harry, checking that he was eating enough at home and reminding him that he was welcome anytime. He was a little embarrassed by the attention, but used to it by now, and it warmed him to know he had a place he could go if he needed.
Monday he had to himself, since his friends were busy, and he didn't have to work anywhere. He walked with Simon at his side and Hedwig above him, like he'd done almost everyday, and went all the way to the end of the village in the opposite direction of the main road. The village was very spread out with each house having a large yard and ample privacy, and he had yet to go all the way to the end of the residential area.
He came upon the last house on the road and saw a sign in front, 'Children of Peace.' It was a children's home. Harry didn't know it existed; he hadn't heard anyone talking about it before. He saw witches and wizards bustling about and realized the place must be just starting.
He approached cautiously and asked a witch with a roll of parchment, "Excuse me, but can I help with anything?"
She waved him off and said distractedly, "In a minute." After directing a few pieces of furniture to the proper places, she turned to him. "What was that, dear?"
Harry smiled, "I was wondering if I could help at all?"
"Well, I think we have everything set up, now. The children will be arriving in fifteen minutes by portkey. It was a mad rush trying to get this place ready on time," she said shaking her head.
"Where are the children coming from?" Harry asked.
"They are children of parents who were attacked by Death Eaters. They have been in Ministry lodging until now. Thankfully, there are only a dozen kids in all that have to live here." She grimaced. "That sounded horrible didn't it? Even one orphaned child is too many, but it wasn't as bad as I expected."
Harry dropped his gaze to the ground and nodded, unsure of what to say. How had he never considered other orphans? He'd seen couples die in visions only to find out later that they had children staying with friends or at school. He'd never thought about them, though. He noticed he wasn't breathing quite right and focused on correcting that.
The woman was shouting orders to three other workers and turned back. "I'm sorry, I haven't even introduced myself. My name is Grace Young. I'll be running things here."
Harry looked up and took her offered hand. "Harry. Nice to meet you." She gasped slightly and looked at him for the first time with her full attention.
"You're Harry Potter," she said evenly.
"Yes, I know," he smiled. "Call me Harry."
"And you really want to help?" she asked hopefully.
"Very much. I know something of orphans…" he said stupidly and wished he hadn't.
She smiled sadly. "Yes, of course you do. Well, there really isn't much more to be done with the house, but we could always use help with the kids. We'll have them from ages two to thirteen. I know many of them will want someone to talk to, and they don't always like talking to adults."
"I'm an adult," said Harry with a smile.
"Yes, but you're not a stuffy old coot like most of the people they've been with at this point," she smirked. "It really is a big thing to ask of anyone. But if you truly want to, I won't refuse any willing help."
"Thank you," said Harry softly. "I'm afraid I don't really know what to do, but I'll come by and just hang out with the kids if that's alright."
"That would be perfect, Harry."
"I should be able to be here from, say, eleven until two thirty if that's ok."
"You can choose whatever hours you'd like, Harry. You're the volunteer. Oh," she cried when she looked at her watch. "The kids will be here any second. I need to get them all sorted out today, but you can come over tomorrow or whenever you have time…"
Harry smiled and nodded. "Sure, that would be great. I'll see you around eleven, or a little after, tomorrow. Good luck!" he called as he walked away from the busy house.
Harry couldn't keep the silly grin off his face as he made his way back home. He was pleased with the jobs he had already, but volunteering to work with kids would be completely different. He was excited and anxious. He didn't really know how to deal with kids, but he had helped with the first years a few times in sixth and seventh year. He knew that wasn't the same as having experience with young children, but he was sure Grace would show him what he needed to know.
He felt like he would be doing something worthwhile, but not earth-shattering. Harry knew that his fight against the darkness was vital to both the wizarding and muggle worlds, but it always seemed so destructive. He had only succeeded in ruining lives in battle. Yes, the Death Eaters needed to be stopped, but he couldn't help thinking that everyone that died or was sent to Azkaban was a father or mother or had other family that would miss them. Now was his chance to help some kids' lives, even in a small way. He didn't have any delusions about being a miracle counselor or anything of the sort. He just wanted to talk and listen to any orphaned children who needed it.
Harry went to bed early that night, because he was working at Honeyduke's in the morning. He smiled with the realization that he might be able to get through this point in his life with the help of everyone around him.
A/N: Just a quick note. Simon, the dog, was just begging to be in the story, and I can't resist sad puppy eyes, so I caved. Also, Grace and Children of Peace (CoP) will continue to be in the story, along with some other original characters. I'm only mentioning this because they don't have a main role or anything, so don't get too annoyed with them if you don't like OC's. I usually hate them, but who am I to tell them to get out of the story? Harry wanted to go investigating; it's not my fault. : ) Right. So, please review!