Author's Notes:

Welcome to the revised version of this story~! (Mind you, I am not overly wonderful at editing, so there will still likely be mistakes!)

In an effort to cut down on author's notes, I'm going to put a few (or more than a few, sorry!) things here at the very beginning. Just to make things pretty clear so we all can be happy, ok?

1) This story is AU and a Crossover with KHR. The divergences begin to occur after Harry's fight with Quirrell.

2) Hermione and Ron are not bashed- I try not to bash anyone- however they both sort of fall by the wayside. This is not to bash them or to twist them into little menaces of doom. I plan to have them show up much later, but they need time to grow up. Their childhoods were much, much different than Harry's and for all they are good solid friends to canon!Harry, this Harry has a mentor! Harry's changes in personality will seem strange to them.

3) Harry changes progressively due to Xanxus' mentorship. Xanxus is the Varia Boss and Harry is an abused child who survived an attempt made on his life by a member of his school's faculty. With Xanxus in the picture- so to speak- Harry matures and begins to learn to think for himself. This is a very important point as canon!Harry really had no one do this for him! Canon!Harry had a distinct lack of mentors, if you will recall, and Xanxus isn't one to let talent rot, no matter what Harry's physical age might be. This is a major divergence!

4) Character perspectives. There is no one in this fic who is all knowing, so character perspectives reflect that.

5) The Varia are badass assassins who are, essentially, the Mafia's version of James Bond. They are small, excellent at their jobs and unquestionably lethal. Running into situations unprepared or haphazardly is not their style. For all their personal quirks they are professionals, the very best of the very best. Remember that they will not make a move unless they feel assured of their success.

6) Headcannon says that the Varia are about half the size of the CEDEF- who have around 700 members. However, the Varia are also responsible for a lot less, overall, than the CEDEF. The Varia are the assassins, the shadows in the night. Meanwhile the CEDEF is- supposed to be- the greatest intelligence gathering agency in the world. The CEDEF needs to track world governments, police organizations, and a host of other things on top of keeping up with the intel gathering of the underworld, in order to properly advise the Vongola Boss.

7) Google Translate is my friend, but the wonderful Ghiro kindly corrected several spots where Translate failed me. The story summary is also courtesy of the lovely shadowleaves. Rikkamaru kindly allowed Chapter 7 to go forward, even though a certain pair of characters ended up being eerily similar to a few points in her fic Cumulonimbus. Sailor Dying-Will pointed out a logic error in Chapter 9, so thanks to her for that! Glorilian kindly pointed out a few linguistic mistakes in Chapter 7! (Google Translate and random websites lied to me!) Meanwhile FreekislyDumb pointed out an error in Chapter 4! (I coulda swore I fixed it! but, noo, that 'Decimo' error somehow persisted!)

8) This is not a pairing-driven fic. However there could be any number of pairings and this could very well include slash. Harry is sort of tactile during certain points but that does not mean that the touch is sexually charged. Harry is trying to overcome his past, but neglect is a tortuous form of abuse and it leaves scars behind. Touch is important to Harry, especially after Xanxus' plan comes together and Harry is whole again.

9) Headcannon for the Flames is that once the world had a roughly equal number of Earth Flame users and Sky Flame users. It was balanced and happy. Then things went sideways and the Earth Flames tapered off until there were only a handful of them left. So, the people start from what they know and then progress from there.

10) Xanxus has plans for Harry's group. Unfortunately Harry's group cannot be easily linked to the Varia once they move past Hogwarts and into the Mafia proper. This is why they have codenames. I know they are kind of a pain, but they have an actual purpose.

Thanks for reading this massive note! Sorry it was so long!

Now on to the story~!


Burn Me With Fire

Summary: After the encounter with Quirrell, Harry's world drastically changes. In (sleep) comes a foul-mouthed man with a healthy amount of disregard (of reality). Or, where Harry meets a man who could somehow talk while encased in ice, and his world tilts, spins, and implodes. {Mentor!Xanxus, Different!HP, and eventual Familial!Varia.}




Magic is a tricky, multifaceted element.

It (she?) is semi-sentient and yet mostly passive unless called by the will of her wielder. This is why so few 'witches' and 'wizards' ever manifest the fabled Elemental Soulfires- because their magic acts in accordance to their will. Typically either their magic to carries them to victory or they die. The precious, precious few who do manifest both of these gifts- and truly understand that they wield two types of power instead of only one- are terrible and great; feared and beloved.

Morgana le Fey and Myrridin Emrys were two such examples- one 'Dark' and one 'Light' for even in greatness and power there must be balance.

Magic resides in the blood while the Flames come forth from the soul.

Magic reflects breeding, choice, and practice. Magic allows for a certain amount of misdirection or deception, beholden to the will of its wielder. Flames, however, burst forth unrepentantly from the truest, rawest part of a person- from their very soul. Thereby showcasing who that person was without any masks or training or choice, baring their soul to the world in all of its fiery glory. The good and the bad; the desired and the undesired, all of those things revealed for all to see.

For though all people are different- unique- certain traits were prevalent for each element. Something that terrified those in positions of power. For no power could possibly be worth what the Soulfires revealed about a person, not when Houses were built on secrecy and kept in power through the systematic oppression of the lower classes. How would the rulers keep the servants at heel if they knew they could fight with more than just what little magic the leaders were willing to teach? If the Squibs learned that they were not powerless in the face of veiled tyranny?

Fear- primal and desperate fear- drove the early magicals who knew of the true nature of the Elemental Soulfires to renounce them as an 'unholy, corrupted power'. For who would wish to chance such a power, when it revealed so much, so freely? So Flames were cast out of written memory among the magical nations, soul magic in and of itself banned, reviled, and abhorred.

Therefore those- magical and nonmagical- who survived the purges that came in the wake of the fall of Avalon- a time of great upheaval across the globe, in all spheres of influence- were left alone, as over time the magicals forgot they existed. Resilient, the Soulfire-wielding peoples nursed their wounds and emerged smarter, harder, and more determined to keep their secrets.

When the Statue of Secrecy was invoked many thing were preserved- but likewise many things were lost. Those who were deemed 'unworthy' or 'unnecessary' were cast out of the newly born 'Magical World'. These people were cut loose with poorly-executed memory modifications, left bereft of information, money, land or anything else that could have made the transition smoother, and so they scattered as they searched for a place to call home.

It didn't take long for these wanderers to disappear into the masses, and for the Magical World to move forward without them.

The magic in their blood lay dormant without the infusion of established magical blood to catalyze the creation of magical cores. Yet, power calls to power, and over the ensuing centuries- through countless battles, war and death- the castaways were found and folded into the secret communities that had been in hiding since the dark days. Slowly- ever so slowly and cautiously- a new secretive society was founded on the scattered ashes of a lost inheritance.

The Flames of the Dying Will- or the Dying Will Flames- as they had came to be called. Beautiful, otherworldly Flames that manifested at the point of no return. Bright, effervescent lights at the darkest hour.

While it would stand to reason that one would think that the magical governments would be aware or at least monitor the movements of these extraordinary, nonmagical people- people who could dodge bullets, make solid illusions, and call overwhelming power to their aid- in reality no such thing occurred.

The sad truth of the matter was that the by the time of the founding of the International Confederation of Wizards- an oversight committee to keep the magical world as a whole from the ever-expanding nonmagical population- the knowledge of Soulfire had already been lost . The ICW is also a young organization by comparison. Established after the near-exposure of the magical populations following the outbreak Great War, the ICW had no real power outside of the Regulators. The Regulators being a multi-national team of individuals who are dedicated to the meticulous erasure of the existence of magic from the world at large. At barely five-hundred people strong they are an incredibly small force for such a monumental, vitally important task.

The British Isles and their Ministry for Magic are an unusual example of a central, strong magical government, as the Isles have retained one of the highest progressive magic-wielding populations in the world.

Most of the world's magic-using populations were split into two distinct categories following the enactment of the Statute- the progressive magicals and the strict isolationists.

There were the progressive magicals. Smaller families who were established following the dissolution of the greater House system. These families were those who continued to send their children to be educated at independently established schools-such as Hogwarts. Schools such as Hogwarts had already been in the practice of using an apprentice-styled system for the students to pay the school back for teaching them how to properly wield magic. So the impact of the Statute was rather minimal overall to such places. There were still titled Houses, of course, but these Houses were no longer the absolute establishments they had been before the Statute had broken up their operating system. There were still loyalty vows and the like sworn to these Houses by the offshoot branches that quickly formed, but they were no longer Sovereigns in their own right.

Eventually loose governments popped up among these progressive magicals- such as the Ministry for Magic in Great Britain- mostly established with the assistance of the titled Houses. In deference to their assistance the Houses were allowed a considerable amount of leeway not afforded to the newer, small families who were beginning to form outside of the control of the Houses as time progressed.

Then there were those Houses who chose to become even more insulated after the implementation of the Statute. Meaning that children who were born into the service of a ruling House- as their ancestors before them- were educated locally. People under the rule of an absolute monarch such as these are only allowed to leave their region by the grace of their Sovereign. These Houses are the stringent isolationists who maintain as little contact with the progressive magicals as possible, let alone the nonmagicals. These Houses strictly maintain their bloodlines and traditions and are prone to executing those who attempt to leave without permission, despite the loyalty and secrecy vows that have been sworn by the families for generations.

This history of secrecy was what prevented the countries rising together against threats such as the Dark Lord Voldemort.

While there were Auror forces in the progressive magical nations, there was no central sort of government or authority to unite the scattered peoples against specific threats. The ICW was an oversight committee as opposed to a higher authority which meant there was little that they- as a body- could do in terms of threats posed to individual nations. Though the ICW was used as a neutral ground for negotiations occasionally, they were more focused on preserving the Statute than policing individual countries.

The closer one traveled to the countries of Asia, the less likely you were to find progressive magicals, the isolationists being shrouded in mystery even to the progressive magical governing bodies.

The same could be said of the tribes of Africa, each having their own unique take on magic, but forbidden to speak of it to outsiders.

The Americas had no real magical populations to speak of- outside of the surviving Native American tribes- as most of the surviving lines that had immigrated fled to Mexico or Canada during the Second Witch Hunts.

South America, Australia, and New Zealand were mostly isolationists. Though Australia boasts a small, thriving progressive magical population their policies leaned more toward isolationists than progressives, meaning their laws were quite restrictive.

Thus, the Flames- or Soulfire- and their wielders are principally unknown to progressive magicals- even to men such as the prodigious Albus Dumbledore- as they are Flames born of the soul, and soul magic is the most taboo subject in any progressive magical population. Any who have studied such things feared above all others and shunned by the societies at large.

Tom Marvolo Riddle learned of the Flames from the meticulously-kept diary of a Mafioso. Tom had killed the man by accident- the man had been attempting to kidnap him and Tom had pulled from that strange well of power inside of him to make the man stop- at the age of eight in downtown London.

It took much trial and error to unlock the protective measures on the diary- long after he learned of Hogwarts, part of the reason why he studied so far ahead of his peers- for something inside him told young Tom that the diary was important.

Eventually, he succeeded in unlocking the book and it told him of secrets far beyond that which he had ever imagined.

The stories of the man's 'Sky' and the abilities described by each 'Guardians' gave Tom the basis for what would someday be his 'Inner Circle'. The idea of the Sky's 'Harmony' was the fundamental basis for the future 'Dark Mark' and the reason why cutting off the arm that the Mark was placed on would do absolutely nothing to remove the Mark itself. Tom committed the book to memory and burned it, less interested in the mafia and more in using the tactics to take over the British magical population.

For if such power as the Flames were hidden even from the Old Families, what other secrets could he uncover? What other power existed in the world that he could make his own?

Tom managed to awaken the Flames of the Sky during the summer before his Sixth Year at Hogwarts. It confirmed to him his own thoughts of superiority, of his right to rule over the sheep. Tom resolved then that there was only power and those too weak to understand that- to seek power beyond what was handed to them by their teachers or parents- were unworthy to rule.

When Tom discovered the existence of Horcruxes in the library at Hogwarts the following winter, he came to the conclusion that the 'bits of soul' mentioned were actually specific Flames, stored into containers to keep the whole soul from passing on. He based this theory on what he'd read in the Mafioso's diary. The man had described how even if the body of a person technically expired the person could be 'brought back' so long as the Flame was kept burning.

Tom hypothesized that to make more than one Horcrux one needed to have more than one Flame, as a soul without a Flame in a Flame-active person would only be a shell of madness. Tom assumed that his magical blood could- and would- keep him grounded even without the individual pieces of his Flames, and so came his plan to make seven Horcruxes- one for each Flame.

So it was that two veiled worlds collided in the mind of a brilliant, callous Magic-wielding Sky who craved power above all else.

A monster was born; one who wore the skin of a charming, intelligent man.

The imbalance-for even in greatness and power there must always, always be balance- that allowed the rise of the Dark Lord Voldemort went unchecked as he tore a bloody swath through the world that he professed to love. Yet now magic moved to balance the scales, aided by the desperation of a mother who wanted only for her baby to survive.

Shrouded in the mists of time, that particular world's version of Sepira's- well, her imprint, really- smiled. Her heart's song rang out clearly as one of the final prophecies of the most powerful Seer the Earthborn had ever produced began to unravel.

"Good luck, little one." The imprint of Sepira breathed into the void as her plans began to take shape and her form began to unravel, her long watch over her home over at long last. "I'm so sorry for the hell you must go through, but I have faith in you. Go forth and carve out a brighter future for your world. For all worlds fortunate enough to be connected to yours."

In his hidden place Kawahira shuddered even as his head snapped upwards in alarm, as he felt a change occurring- a shift in the timeline of a world doomed for destruction- and behind his checkered mask he smiled.

'Let's see how this new timeline plays out, eh?'


Chapter One


Harry was eleven and fighting for his life against a man who had been willingly hosting the essence of his parent's murderer all year when it happened.

The man- demon- reached for him. Harry's body was battered and bloody and broken and coiled in immovable ropes. Harry knew with crystal-clear certainty that his year of lackluster magical education afforded him no hope of beating this person, of surviving this situation. Harry knew he was going to die-

-then something inside him snapped.

There was the interval of a heartbeat- a single terrifyingly long heartbeat that seemed to stretch on forever- during which Harry's unblinking eyes remained avidly locked onto the snarling, sneering visage of his parent's murderer. Soon to be his murderer, an absent part of him noted idly.

'I'm sorry, mum, dad.' He thought brokenly as frustrated tears welled up in his eyes. 'I'm sorry that your sacrifice only bought me ten years. I'm sorry that those ten years were spent with the Dursleys, and that I never really got to live. Will you turn me away, when we meet in the afterlife for being so pathetic?'

Harry's headache finally reached an excruciating crescendo- he couldn't see or breathe or hear and he just knew that this was the end.

Then there was the feeling of something shattering inside his skull, and he heard screams but he didn't know who, what, when, or where- but he followed the feeling of something inside him that screamed at him to move. So Harry lunged forward to plant his flaming hands- and he had no time to properly contemplate the novel fact that his hands were on fire- solidly against his aggressor's face.

The smell of burning flesh, smoke, fire, and death filled his nose and his mouth, but Harry pressed on in spite of choking on the cloying ash. All Harry knew as the darkness took him was that he won, though he vaguely noted the wispy black cloud that rose above the fires and fled.


Harry woke up in the Hospital Wing nearly a week later, disoriented and groggy. He patiently listened as his friends fussed over him, grateful beyond words that Ron and Hermione were alright. After they left, ushered out by the formidable Madam Pomfrey, Headmaster Dumbledore came to visit.

The Headmaster informed him that his survival was once again due to his mother's love. Aching with the desire to know as much as possible about the wonderful woman who had loved him so much she had saved his miserable life twice- and figuring that he could at least owl order books that mentioned Lily Potter or listen to stories from Hagrid, who was always willing to talk to him about his parents- Harry begged to stay at the school over the summer.

Yet, no matter how much Harry begged to not return to the empty place he had called home for the better part of a decade, he received an implacable, but not unkind, no.

"My boy, you need to return to the house where your mother's blood dwells to recharge the Blood Wards or do you want her sacrifice to be in vain? They're your family Harry, they can't be that terrible. I'm sure it's just your youth exaggerating, m'boy." The Headmaster smiled at him one last time, ate a Bertie Botts bean-"'Ah, alas. Earwax."-and departed from the Infirmary.

Harry had been left alone with the knowledge that he had killed a grown man who had been hosting the soul of his parent's murderer with his own two hands and no one seemed to care. The knowledge that in less than a day he would be headed back to Privet Drive and a summer of servitude did nothing to ease his troubled mind.

Harry listened apathetically- his persistently aching head pressed against the magically cooled glass of the train- as Hermione rambled on about her parent's summer plans and Ron moaned about his upcoming summer chores. Harry tried to keep his breathing steady as they chugged closer and closer to King's Cross station and his summer prison.

As he stared sightlessly out the window of the compartment, he allowed his thoughts to drift, lulled by the sounds of his friends voices. It wasn't all that difficult, really, and no one commented on his lack of desire to speak. For all that he was okay in the moment, the memory of a man burning beneath his fingers was traumatic and he hadn't slept decently since he had woken from his coma-like state.

Harry was keenly aware that he was far from stupid; he simply preferred to get by unnoticed.

If there was one thing life in the Dursley household had taught him it is that unnoticed meant unmolested. When he was young and still trying to gain the approval of his family he had done everything he could to get noticed- perfect chores, good manners, good grades. Yet then he had woken up one day-on his birthday with no cake or presents or acknowledgement as he watched Aunt Petunia coo over Dudley's 'C' paper from remedial math- and Harry had realized that he was never going to be Dudley.

This unpleasant revelation, however, had left him with the predicament of what to do about his 'station' in life. He had decided to experiment- just in case he was overreacting. So, for the following weeks he progressively did slightly less than perfect chores, loosened his hold on his manners, and started doing barely enough to pass in his classes. Dishearteningly, he realized that these things pleased the Dursleys. His home life was actually more pleasant when the Dursleys adults had concrete things to complain about to the neighbors. Neighbors who all raptly listened to the hybrid truthful fiction that his so-called family spewed, with vicious, eager anticipation. It was at that point that little Harry had opened his eyes to the world at large and realized that seeing him fail made his family happy.

The only thing that kept him from breaking down entirely was the quiet, barely-heard whisper inside his mind that insisted that such behavior wasn't normal. Still, it was that day that little eight-year-old Harry realized that the only person that he could rely on to get him out of Little Whinging and away from his fake family was himself.

Then Hagrid had come with fantastic tales of magic and a cake- and life after that magical night had seemed like a fairytale. For the first time in ages Harry had felt hope that he could actually be someone important- had discovered that his parents had been amazing people, wonderful people who had wanted him. Surely people as amazing as his parents had friends, right? People who would save him from his prison once they knew the truth about the Dursleys? Harry could deal with the unwanted fame as long as he was somewhere he belonged, wanted even.

Harry would be whatever they wanted as long as they would accept him. He had purposefully ignored the jealousy in Ron's eyes when he looked at Harry's new schoolbooks and clothing, (even as Harry would gaze longingly at the ratty packages that Ron's mum sent to her children every month, ones that Ron seemed embarrassed about and shoved in his trunk after barely looking at the handwritten notes that accompanied the sweets). Harry resolutely ignored the way Hermione's eyes would narrow angrily when he'd forget to hold back and get the spell before her in class when she knew he hadn't put in the hours that she had to learn the theory, (he'd patiently endure the forthcoming rants about spell theory and how it was important and how he couldn't go off half-cocked all the time because he'd screw up someday and then she'd have to fix him).

He smiled- bullshitted, honestly- his way through goodbyes on the magical side of the Barrier. Once on the nonmagical side of King's Cross, Harry greeted his uncle respectfully- easily falling back into old habits, even after ten months of freedom- and soon arrived back at his prison for the summer.

He barely made it through the doorway- trying to shake off an unpleasant sensation sliding down his spine; the sensation he usually associated with warning him of impending danger- before his uncle rounded on him, face in a familiar hue of purple as he threatened the blank-faced Harry. "Now see here, boy. Those-those freaks sent us a letter that says you can't do that freakishness outside of school, so your things will go into the cupboard and any protest from you and they'll go to the attic and you'll go to the cupboard, understand? Your aunt has the list of chores posted on your bedroom wall so there will be absolutely no confusion over how you will be earning your keep, you hear me boy?"

'Who was the idiot who told these arseholes that I can't do magic over the hols? That was my one hope for a relatively peaceful summer! Thank all that is good and holy I let Hedwig out before I crossed the Barrier!' "Yes, Uncle Vernon." He replied obediently, already knowing that without the threat of magic it would be useless to argue as he moved to fulfill the demand.

He accepted his meager dinner from his beady-eyed aunt- 'Oh, hell. Hagrid used magic on Dudley- the only thing the horse loves more than her reputation, and she knows that I can't use magic- how is this my life?!'- and wearily trudged his way up to his room, silently sending out a thankful prayer that Dudley's school had run later than Hogwarts this year.

As Harry drifted off to sleep- his belly growling and his body still full of aches from his encounter with Quirrell- he absently wished that there was someone who cared enough about him to teach him to be strong. Because he wouldn't mind putting his life on the line for people who gave a damn about him for a change. Nearly dying at the hand of a teacher- because he had felt he had needed to protect the Stone and Professor McGonagall had refused to listen to them- and then being shipped off back to the Dursleys made him wish that he had never stepped foot in Hogwarts.

At least then he would not know what he was missing by being trapped here as the Dursley family's servant boy.


Harry knew for a fact that this was not where he had fallen asleep.

It might have been the ice all around him that had clued him in a bit. However, the tanned, dark haired male with the feathers in his hair, crimson red eyes- as opposed to Voldemort's scarlet ones- who was glaring at him ferociously enough to put Snape's usual glares to shame while being trapped in a cocoon of ice was his biggest clue.

Seriously, a cocoon of ice. Only the man's face was uncovered; the rest of the body was frozen in the flame-patterned ice, unmoving despite the flexing and tensing of the muscles.

"The fuck are you doing here, trash?" The man snarled at him in a rough, gravelly voice. Harry could see the muscles flexing beneath the translucent shell, trying to move, but the ice refused to budge.

However Harry was a bit distracted from his absent gratefulness that the muscled man was apparently stuck inside the ice, as what he heard didn't seem to fit the movements of the other's mouth.

Harry blinked bemusedly for a few moments before he sank down to a crossed-legged potion on the icy- but strangely warm- floor. Harry levelled the man with an unimpressed look. "I've finally lost my mind, haven't I?"

The other sneered even as he continued to struggle against the cocoon of ice that held him securely, but this time the words matched the mouth movements. "Looks like that's all you've got to lose, trash."

Harry glanced down at his faithful Dursley hand-me-downs- apparently clothes could be freakish so all of his new ones were securely in the cupboard, leaving him with last year's pre-Hagrid clothes. "So, you're what, the embodiment of all my self-hatred or something? And why are you old?"

"Shut the fuck up, trash!"

"Right. " Harry huffed in bemused amusement as he rolled his eyes expressively. Harry propped an elbow on a knee, idly observing the icy landscape around him. "Figures that my own self-delusion would be a callous potty mouth and call me trash."

He heard a snarl, and some more words, but ignored them in favor of tracing the flame-like patterns in the ice. 'It's almost like someone froze actual fire, but I don't know any charms that can do that, so why would I dream of it?'

Eventually, Harry spoke. "I killed a man." He said contemplatively.

There was a beat of silence. "Do you want a fucking cookie, trash?"

"Wow, I never knew that I could put that level of derision in a single word, something to look forward to, I guess." Harry mused idly, ignoring the snarls coming from the man across from him. "Seriously though, I felt him disintegrate under my fingers. Aren't you supposed to get counseling for that kind of thing? I mean, it happened while I was at school."

Silence for another beat then an expectant. "Explain yourself, trash."

Harry squinted at the other suspiciously. "You're me, aren't you supposed to know what I know?"

He received a…rather impressive glare. Harry had had no idea that the original glare could get anymore intense. "Look, trash, I don't know who the fuck you are or how you got here, but I am Xanxus of the fucking Von-Varia, now tell me how some motherfucker disintegrated under your fingers at your fucking school."

Harry wanted to argue that his self-delusion naming itself was a bad sign, but no one had ever truly listened to him before. For all Harry was convinced that this place- this man- was just a really weird dream that he's never going to remember, something inside his chest loosened at the thought that someone might want to hear what he has to say. 'Ah, screw it.' "I'd have to give you the backstory- there's a lot of it."

"I'm not fucking going anywhere, trash, so fucking talk." The man trapped in the ice cocoon demanded.

So Harry did.


Strangely, Harry remembered his strange dream in detail when the next morning came and with it his Aunt's shrill voice shrieking at him to wake up. The memory of the strange encounter stayed with him throughout his long day of chores- they apparently had been saving projects for him while he was gone, how thoughtful- and when he laid down for the night he kind of hoped to see his foul-mouthed alter-ego again.

That night the dreamscape with the frozen fire and the man encased in ice returned.

It took a week, but eventually he managed to inform Xanxus- Harry got snarled at whenever he called the other a delusion, so Harry just gave up and went along with it- about his life up to the point of Quirrell-Mort. The other snarled, cursed, and sneered, but listened all the same which was more than anyone had ever done for Harry. Harry found himself kind of wishing that Xanxus was actually real, for all the man's foul-tempered, unsympathetic commentary.

Then Harry reached the point in the story about fighting Quirrell-Mort. When he spoke of the way the man burned under his fingers, Xanxus didn't complain or shy away. When Harry talked about the acidic, cloying smoke that filled his lungs as the man died, or how fucking terrified Harry had felt facing a man over twenty years his senior who had been in a position of trusted authority over him, Xanxus just listened with strangely understanding eyes. Harry had finally raged, pacing back and forth with his arms waving around wildly, as he finally voiced how angry he had felt when he awoke in the Hospital Wing to find that the Headmaster had arrived just as he fell unconscious. Harry screamed his throat raw when he told of how wounded he felt when he realized that the people who knew what had happened to him in that chamber brushed the experience off like it was expected of him to do such things.

When Harry was finished, caught up to the present, there were still tears on his cheeks, his throat was nearly unbearably tender, and his hands were fisted at his sides- but he somehow felt lighter.

After a small ice age the silence is finally broken by the gravelly voice that he has grown somewhat used to. "Your Headmaster is a fucking idiot, trash."

Harry cocked his head inquisitively, turning to face the other- storytelling was easier when not looking into the red-eyed glare of the man he was sharing a dreamscape with, after all. "Why do you say that?"

Xanxus gave him a piercing stare, soul deep and searching. Harry was afraid to breathe for a long moment, but Xanxus must have found what he was looking for as he finally nodded and continued. "Storm Flames."


Xanxus rolled his eyes- and Harry secretly hoped that one day he would be able to express so much with such a small expression. "There's laws against this shit, but you've got them, so fuck the laws. The fire that you talked about that burned that Volde-trash- your Headmaster is wrong, it wasn't your mother's fucking love, it was your Storm Flames."

Harry opened his mouth to ask questions, but a glare kept him silent as Xanxus continued. "There are seven types of Flames of the Dying Will: Sky, Storm, Rain, Lightning, Sun, Cloud, and Mist. Their abilities are: Harmonization, Disintegration, Tranquility, Hardening, Activation, Propagation, and Construction, respectively. There are also Hard flames and Soft Flames- basically two ends of the spectrum. You said that the Flames were red, right?"

Harry nodded as he sank down to sit in front of Xanxus. "What I can remember, anyways. Not really a dark red, but a really bright one- there might have been some gold, though."

Xanxus nodded- as much as he could manage, anyways- in acknowledgement. "There's a whole bunch of theories about Flame types and shit, but what I've seen is that Hard types need challenges to gain battle for control of their Flame, while Soft types usually do better by meditation. Neither way is better, they're your fucking Flames, find whichever works for you. It's also possible to have a secondary, but it's fucking rare and it will take a lot of hard fucking work for you to be able to use it consciously. Most trash don't work with their secondary- or tertiary- so it's pretty unheard of to master more than the primary Flames, but it's not fucking impossible."

Harry blinked rather stupidly. "Why should I do anything? I mean I have my magic-"

"That fucking thought process will get you fucking killed, trash! Be a fucking man and grow some fucking balls! Stop letting other fucking people call the shots in your fucking life!"

Harry felt like he should be offended, but something warm unfurled in his chest at the thought of someone thinking that he has the potential to be more than what seems to be implied that he should be. "You know, I kind of wish that you were real." He ruminates sadly.

He received a glare in response to his rather maudlin statement. "I'm as real as you, you fucking trash, and since you're the only fucking entertainment that I've got, and I know now that you've got Flames, prepare to fucking entertain me."

Harry suddenly felt much less benevolent towards his dream companion.


A month and a half into the summer hols and Harry really just wanted to die.

Well, not really, but Xanxus couldn't possibly be a delusion because there's no way that Harry would wish this level of torture upon himself. Xanxus- for all his foul-mouthed-ness, death threats, and seemingly callous regard for Harry's survival- was really freaking smart. It made him a great tutor, but also Harry's nightly terror.

They found that if Xanxus concentrated he could make things appear in the dreamscape- such as paper, or pencils, or other things of the like; thankfully no weapons or a magical way out of the ice- and likewise, Harry could do the same. When they had discovered this two days after the Flame revelations, Harry was kind of excited. Xanxus had summarily announced- because Harry had found that Xanxus did not ask, ever- that he would be tutoring Harry- "In whatever the fuck I feel like, trash!".

Harry had innocently reasoned to himself that tutoring would mean that Xanxus could be entertained- which would keep him too busy to continually bitch about Harry's lack of spine-which was a good thing.

Harry had sadly underestimated Xanxus' exacting standards and varying levels of gleeful sadistic amusement at his expense.

Also, his companion's ability to know when Harry was lying was terrifying- the less said about that incident, the better, and Harry would never again lie to the man across from him.

Harry had only asked why the man was encased in ice a single time- the level of fury that his companion had displayed had terrified him- and Harry had no wish to see what would happen to him if Xanxus managed to free himself from his ice cocoon in that type of temper.

Harry felt as if he had learned more in the five weeks of 'tutoring' than he had in the previous five years of his education. Xanxus, naturally, had not confined his tutoring to only academia and was rather patiently teaching Harry how to call on his Flames. Harry's currently exercise was to call on them into existence on his hands and hold them for three minutes at a time.

{"You're learning control, trash, using them all the time defeats the fucking purpose."}

Xanxus was teaching him a nearly absurd amount of things. Maths, languages- apparently Xanxus was fluent in a ridiculous nine languages and seemed to think Harry should be perfectly happy to be learning Italian and French in tandem. Then, even though Xanxus personally hated ushc things, there were the etiquette lessons- Harry still felt like Draco Malfoy-esque ponce during those lessons; though, the one time he told Xanxus that he received a flat, murderous stare and a marathon math session; Harry had learned to keep his thoughts to himself on the matter. Xanxus was even taking Harry to task on his penmanship and Harry was eternally grateful that Xanxus was trapped in ice when the man threatened to smash his fingers to smithereens every time Harry wrote something other than numbers.

So when Xanxus asked about the state of Harry's money one night right after Harry appeared in the dreamscape, Harry had been a bit hopeful about putting off the night's math lesson for a bit.

"The fuck you mean you don't get fucking bank statements!?" Xanxus roared straining against the ice as usual. Only this time Harry noticed that the ice holding his- mentor?- has receded a little. Not enough for the man to actually move his head freely, but enough to make Harry worry for his continued well-being.

"Does it really matter? I mean I'm only eleven right now, so-"


Uh-oh. That was 'Xanxus' Death Glare #7.' The 'You're a Fucking Idiot, Trash, Shut Up and Let Me Fucking Tell You Why' look that Harry's had gotten so used to over the past few weeks.

Xanxus growled warningly at Harry and leveled him with a serious stare. "Look, trash, that money is fucking important. Shut the fuck up! Better, now, as I was saying. That is your fucking inheritance- what your fucking family has bled, fought, and died for- you don't take that fucking shit lightly. You said that it was a Trust Vault. Does that mean that there is a Family Vault? Do you have properties, staff? Do you have fucking renters who are fucking freeloading? You need to find this shit the fuck out yourself, don't wait for some asshole to hand this information to you, trash. Because this type of information is its own type of fucking power, and if someone wants to fucking 'guide' you, this is the kind of fucking information that can make or break you. Fucking trash."

Harry stopped, caught flatfooted as he stared at the floor. That…..made a disturbing amount of sense. 'Why haven't I thought about it that way?'

"Because you don't want to upset the status quo with your little friends, trash."

Apparently he had said that out loud. Artfully ignoring Xanxus' less-than-flattering assessment of his friends, Harry replied, "Well, the only way to find out is to go to Diagon Alley, and that's in London, and I have no way-"


Harry jerked his head up to meet Xanxus' eyes. "Y-yes?" A little part of him died at the stutter because Xanxus did not tolerate weakness of any kind.

Xanxus glared but did not comment on Harry's little slip into weakness. "Tell the scum you live with that you got a letter for one of your friends and when they ask how just tell them 'magic'." The smirk on the tanned male's face that should be illegal in Harry's humble opinion. "We'll plan this like a Varia job, and you're not Varia fucking Quality, so you better listen the fuck up…"


Harry headed out of the house early in the morning a week later, a note left on the kitchen table to explain his absence to his 'family'.

{Always assume someone is watching you, trash. Don't fucking take stupid-ass risks.}

Which was why Harry had gotten up at the ungodly hour of four in the morning.

Harry used his Flames to disintegrate the locks- his uncle had been installing a new one a week, it seemed- on his door. The damage was not as precise as he would have liked, but in the end the door had opened silently, just as planned. Once he was free of his room he had snuck down to the cupboard, quickly melting through the lock. It had not taken but a few minutes to gather his prized possessions- his photo album and his wand- which he then quietly ran up to his room, putting the treasures under his secret loosened floorboard. Harry had quickly retrieved Hedwig from her cage- there was no need for her to be there today- and crept back down the stairs to the kitchen, letting them both out of the back door before launching her into the air and quickly pulling his invisibility cloak over him.

Harry had used his chores the past week to 'retrieve' money from Dudley's room, Aunt Petunia's purse, and the secret stashes around the house that he knew Dudley raided regularly.

{"But I don't want to steal!" Harry had protested. Stealing was wrong!

Xanxus' response had been rather illuminating for Harry.

"Fuck that! Those scum get money to take care of you, I fucking guarantee it! You're not stealing from the fucking church plate, use what is available to you, trash! There is a fucking difference between greed and survival!"}

Ergo, he had plenty enough to get to London and back again- even a little extra.

It was still fairly early when Harry arrived in London, but the stores were beginning to open. Xanxus had sworn that if Harry entered the bank in Dursley hand-me-downs that he would find a way to flay Harry alive, so Harry had looked up the addresses of several second-hand stores near the Alley's entrance.

Addresses in hand, it didn't take long to find the items that he needed at the second-hand store, and he quickly ducked inside a café to change. Harry smiled brightly at the slightly wary waitress when he came back out, "Lost a bet to my mates, sorry about that."

{"Always have a few back-up scenarios in mind when on an op. You never know when a single moment will make or fucking break you, so having ready-made answers will keep you relaxed and prevent obvious tells- which can get you fucking killed, trash."}

The older- thirties, maybe?- lady smiled kindly at him, "No worries, laddie. What can I get you?"

It was just past the seventh hour of the morning when he came upon the Leaky Cauldron, cloak thrown over him. Harry had been expecting to be caught all morning, but yet here he was, waiting unseen near the door of the Leaky Cauldron. He had actually escaped his room, left the house without getting caught by his family, loaded himself onto the trains, and then successfully changed into his new clothes without being dragged back to Privet Drive.

It was…..exhilarating. Freeing. The fragile flame of hope that he carried- that one day he could be free, be the master of his own fate- fanned even brighter by the winds of success.

{"Better to be unseen. 'Course you have a fucking cheat, but still- if they don't know to look for you chances are they fucking won't, trash."}

Finally, someone came to the pub and Harry managed to slip inside the pub, through the early morning crowd, and into the Alley without being detected. 'I did it!' Harry thought in triumph as he slipped down a side street to remove his cloak, returning it to its previous position underneath his button up shirt. Harry fussed with the flesh-colored bandage covering his scar for a minute before he removed his glasses- attaching them to his undershirt- and then seguing into the early morning traffic so he could make his way to Gringotts Bank.

{"These trash apparently know you by your scar and glasses- put a bandage on your scar, take off the glasses, and walk like you have a fucking spine and they'll look right over the fact that you're their precious fucking savior. Fucking simple-minded trash."}

As he walked over the threshold of the Bank, Harry couldn't help but feel proud of himself.

'I did this, all by myself. Well, with Xanxus's help- but I walked out the door on my own. I couldn't have done that a month ago- I'm getting stronger. Awesome. Now to get done here and find the information that Xanxus wanted me to find….'


"So, basically, you've got a couple of ruined properties that need a fuckton of repairs, a sealed will, a useless-as-fuck but binding mysterious Magical fucking Guardian, a default Heir-ship, a possible secondary Heir-ship, a shit ton of debts to be collected, a national monument that you weren't fucking compensated for, and mindless fucking trash using your Family's wartime fucking sacrifices to line their fucking pockets?"

Harry blinked slowly as he processed the statements- he still had to filter out most of Xanxus' profanity to understand the man- but at least he no longer blushed every time the man said his favorite curse word. "Yeah, basically."

Xanxus grunted in disapproval. "You need a fucking representative, brat. Or to melt this fucking ice and let me purge the world of the stupid fucking trash."

Harry flicked him an exasperated look from where he was seated on the floor, working on yet another set of mathematic worksheets- the bane of his existence. "You can't kill everyone who annoys you, Xanxus."

Instead of the expected flippant- "Why the fuck not?"- response that Harry had expected, there was only silence. After a few minutes of silence Harry realized that Xanxus had not actually replied, and so he looked up to see the older man studying him consideringly. "What?"

Xanxus sighed tiredly- and it was such an unnatural sound for the brash, unrepentant man to make that Harry was vaguely horrified- before he began to explain. "Look, Harry, there comes a time in a man's life where he has to lay down his own set of rules. Where he draws lines that are not to be crossed; makes his fucking stand. I know that you will likely never be as unforgiving as I am, but that isn't why I bitch at you. I bitch because you make excuses for the worthless trash around you and it pisses me the fuck off."

Harry furrowed his brow in consternation. "But they're just scared-" He tried to explain to his mentor.

"Brat that's exactly what I'm fucking talking about."


Xanxus made a frustrated sound. "It's not acceptable that they treat you like shit- and don't deny that they do. It doesn't matter that they fear the power that you can wield or that they might not have wanted to take you in. None of that fucking matters. They're not mafia, they don't have the excuse of being a part of a culture founded on violence- they are nice, normal, respectable people and they should fucking act like it. The fact that they take all their perceived issues out on a child left in their care is not only despicable it's criminal- and I would fucking know. I guarantee that if they lived in Varia territory, they'd be dead for that shit- because the shit that they have done to you would make then a target for my men; violent, bloodthirsty motherfuckers we might be, but child-abusing, lying shitstains we are not- I fucking hate liars."


The Dursley family was rather unhappy about the day he'd taken off to go to Diagon Alley, but surprisingly they hadn't tried to double up his chores or give him too much grief. They hadn't even mentioned the damage to his bedroom door, which was pretty obvious to him because the locks didn't actually work anymore, but he wasn't going to complain. Midnight kitchen runs were epic. Naturally, Xanxus made him plan them like Varia missions, complete with objectives like letting Hedwig out without getting caught; or sneaking into his Uncle's study to look over important documents.

Still, food- that was the important part.

Harry didn't realize the changes that he'd undergone since Xanxus had taken up residence in his dreamscape. The man's abrasive personality should have constantly set Harry's temper off, but there was something different about Xanxus' brand of caustic that made him want to do better instead of worse.

There was also something about the very, very, very rare glint of approval that flickered through Xanxus' eyes when Harry did something that he swore he couldn't that made Harry want to be that much better.

So, nowadays, when his Aunt Petunia sniped about his mother or Uncle Vernon made comments about how much he cost them, Harry tuned them out, because he honestly no longer needed their approval. It was a novel experience, because he didn't remember even starting to like Xanxus but somehow the man's opinion had become more important than anyone else.

Which was fucking scary, when Harry thought about it, because the dreams hadn't started until after he had gotten home from Hogwarts, so did that mean that they'd stop when he went back?

When, a few weeks after his Diagon excursion, his aunt told him of the upcoming visit from his uncle's important clients- "They'll arrive tomorrow evening, boy."- and something inside of him whispered trouble, Harry didn't bother waiting to fall asleep to tell Xanxus before going into mission planning mode.

That night, Xanxus had merely nodded in approval- Harry was a bit apprehensive to note that the ice receded a little more every night- and helped him flesh out his plan.

So, early in the afternoon the next day, while his aunt fussed around in the kitchen- she had told him to go clean, which he had, he just hadn't gone back to get further instructions- and before his uncle returned home from work, Harry slipped on his cloak and slithered out the backdoor. Harry did leave a note on the hall chest that informed them that he would return the following day, most likely in the afternoon.

One of the things that Harry had found out on his previous trip to the Alley was that there was an optometrist's office not far from the Leaky Cauldron. While NHS would pay for new glasses, there were private practices scattered around London where Harry could pay out-of-pocket to get new glasses without needing his aunt or uncle's approval. Harry had also learned the value of a galleon to a pound- Xanxus had forced him to do monetary conversions until his brains oozed out of his ears- and knew that while he was only middle-class by modern, nonmagical standards, he was well off by magical ones.

Ergo, he could shop in some second hand stores to get him some- "-decent fucking clothes you're not destitute, brat"- and get a couple pairs of glasses, while affording to stay at one of the hostels without going over his self-imposed budget.

That had been an eye opener.

There were hostels in London for teens and young adults that let them stay with no questions asked as long as they could pay. The accommodations weren't fancy or anything, but they were clean and the proprietors wouldn't call the law about a teenager being by themselves. Better yet, no one knew that he was Harry Potter in them, so no one would recognize him and cause him headaches.

So, after arriving in London and checking into a hostel before using a corner phone booth to make an appointment at the optometrist, Harry headed back to the Alley to do some Xanxus-inspired banking.


Grapplehook was confused by the young human before him.

When the boy had come in less than a month ago, he had obviously had no idea how to handle money, barter, or how to comport himself when dealing with a race of warriors.

The young man- and Harry Potter was no longer a mere boy- before him today was much different. The young man didn't suddenly possess a warrior's subtle grace or wield a politician's silver tongue, but there was a keenness in his eyes that only those who truly appreciated that their path must be forged by their own power possessed.

As he exchanged cordial parting nods with the young man, Grapplehook idly wondered if the sheep of the wizarding public knew that their savior was an actual lion and not a domesticated housecat.


Xanxus didn't remember ever deciding to like the spineless wimp.

When the brat had first showed up he'd wanted to rip the whiny little bitch apart. But, he also didn't know how long he'd been frozen and he was excruciatingly bored. He'd known that time had passed, but before the brat showed up he'd been encased in darkness, with only the barest flickers of flames at the edges of his perception. He'd known that the brat was real the moment the rag-wearing shit has appeared, and it pissed him off that the stupid trash took forever to figure that Xanxus wasn't a stupid fucking delusion.

Yet, over the last few months, with the brat being the only time his world had light, he'd grown a little fond of the trash. He didn't want to suddenly cuddle the little bastard, but he had to acknowledge the brat's tenacity. The sad part was the brat didn't even see his own potential.

Xanxus blamed the brat's so called family.

Xanxus swore to kill the Dursley's himself if he ever managed to break free of the Zero Point Breakthrough ice that he knew his real body was still encased inside. He hadn't been lying when he had blown up at the brat a few weeks ago- if Xanxus had known of civilians on Varia territory treating a child like that, they'd be dead. Another Famiglia's issues were one thing- like those fucking Estraneo trash- but well-off civilians using a brat they were being paid to take care of as slave labor with a side of unlawful imprisonment?

Never mind, he'd sic Lussuria on their asses. The Varia Sun was fiercely protective of brats, and he was a creative vindictive asshole when he was in a snit. Xanxus could just watch, preferably with some wine.

(Xanxus diligently ignored the little voice in the back of his head that said that he'd never see his pack again.)

Oh, that was one thing he hadn't told the brat yet. The instincts that came with the Flames. The personality traits that intensified as one progressed in training their Flame. Traits that needed to be judiciously controlled lest they take over and define a person's entire existence, ultimately limiting themselves and their abilities.

Ah, well, Xanxus would let the little shit grow a little before springing it on him.


Harry hadn't truly appreciated just how big the world was until he met Xanxus. Intellectually he had known that there were a lot of people and places in the world as a whole, but until he'd met the other man Harry hadn't truly realized- on a personal level- that there were so many other personalities, cultures, and belief systems that existed alongside his own version of reality.

Walking down the streets of London towards the optometrist's office, Harry pondered the strange creature that had visited him the previous night. Apparently the House Elf- Dobby- had been withholding his mail in an attempt to get Harry to stay away from 'terrible plots' that were to occur at Hogwarts this upcoming year.

'How, exactly, is that supposed to be any different from last year?'

Maybe in another life, without the influence of Xanxus, Harry would have argued that he had to go back because Hogwarts was his escape from the Dursley house. Instead, Harry had listened, nodded along, and then sweet talked his mail away from the little being. Once Dobby had departed Harry had sent short replies explaining that there had been a mix-up with Hedwig- who had shown up at his window just as he was wondering how he was going to send his letters; he fucking loved that owl- and that he was sorry for making his friends worry. Harry would write them both later and explain about his odd encounter with the House Elf Dobby, but he had wanted to make sure they knew he had not been ignoring them.

'Well, shit.' Harry thought bemusedly as he opened the door to the optometrist's office. 'Now I'm sounding like Xanxus inside my own head.'

Harry's appointment went smoothly. Though he had been disappointed to learn that he apparently had bad enough eye sight that he didn't qualify for contacts just yet. He still got two pairs of glasses- one for Quidditch and one for everyday wear, as Xanxus had suggested- and was told that they'd be sent to his address in a week.

Next came clothes shopping. Harry knew that- second hand or not- if he skimped on his shopping and didn't get what Xanxus told him to get there would be hell to pay. And the man would know, because Harry's mentor was ridiculous like that. So, despite being very unenthused about shopping for clothing, Harry ended up with button up shirts, undershirts, slacks, jeans, some exercise clothes, a couple pairs of shoes, and underthings, just as Xanxus had ordered.

Thankfully, while he had been in the Alley yesterday he had gone back to the trunk store. When he had been there with Hagrid he'd been overwhelmed and dazzled, but this time Harry had actually looked around and sampled his options.

{"Never judge a book by its cover, shitty brat. Simple and functional usually beats extravagant and complicated- and just because something is used doesn't make it useless, while being new doesn't make something automatically better."}

So, Harry had found a second hand trunk that had been rigged to shrink and expand with a verbal command. It didn't shrink down to the size of a matchbox- it shrunk down to the size of an average book- but it did not need a wand to shrink down to a smaller size, either. It didn't have a house inside it, but it did have a fair amount of room and an organization charm. Basically, it was an extended wardrobe on one side, with a couple bookshelves and deceptively small-looking cubby holes on the other side, with room at the back for his broom, cauldron and miscellaneous supplies. Full sized he could step inside and move around a little, so it was truly a steal.

That was entirely how he was getting all his newly acquired crap back to Number 4.

He was in luck when he returned Privet Drive, as the Dursley's were out.(Aunt Petunia had even left him a note informing him of what time they planned on being home, even though he did have to dig the spare key out from under the rose bush to get into the house. Not one to waste an opportunity, Harry quickly made his way to the cupboard and hastily grabbed all the important things out of his original trunk- like his books, broom, quills, etc.- and tossed them into his new trunk before shoving the old one back into the cupboard and high tailing it up the stairs.

Once safely ensconced in his room he enlarged his trunk and neatly organized his things, leaving out everything he would need to complete his homework. Grimly pulling out his first set of books and starting on his summer homework, Harry settled in for the long haul.

He just knew Xanxus was going to make him redo the assignments several times. The man was a sadistic perfectionist like that.


Harry hated being right sometimes.

"Don't regurgitate the fucking textbook, shitty brat. Summarize. And clean up your fucking handwriting before I find a way out of this fucking ice and smash your useless fucking fingers!"

That was his History of Magic essay.

"Yes, that's a nice pile of steaming shit, but how about you tell me why the fucking valerian root interacts with the moonstone in the fifth fucking stage instead of just telling me that it does."

That was his Potion's essay.

"Who the fuck is this Gamp trash? Fuck that noise."

That was Transfiguration's homework.

"Animation charms. Make me a tap dancing shark, shitty brat. I'll give you a fucking address."

That was Charms.

"The stars are fucking important, shitty brat. Seriously."

That was Astronomy.

Even still, Xanxus was some kind of genius, because Harry finished his homework in a week, even with all of Xanxus' nitpicking. Even more his homework was actually presentable, Harry was proud of his work.

During the course of finishing up his assignments Harry had received his birthday presents- they had been a pleasant surprise. Accompanying the presents from the Weasley family was a letter from Ron telling him about how he'd been ready to fly his dad's highly illegal car to come bust him out because he hadn't heard from Harry all summer. The letter had included an invite to the Weasley home for the final two weeks of summer, and Harry had leapt at the opportunity like a starving dog, spending the next few letters hammering out the details. Eventually, it had been arranged that he would meet the Weasley family at the Leaky Cauldron the day after the Hogwarts letters had gone out- he'd managed to convince Ron that his relatives would take him to London, as they were headed that way anyways and it was just happy coincidence that the Hogwarts Letters had come out that day- and stay with them for the remainder of the summer.

Hogwarts had a flexible end of term, usually the second week of June, but sometimes as late as nearly the end of June, depending on the OWL and NEWT testing schedules, which affected all the other year's end of year tests. This past year had let out fairly early, being the first week of June, so it had been a long summer.

It was with the happy thought of not having to return until the following June that Harry slipped out of his relative's house for the last time that summer and once again made his own way to London.


"Ron!" Harry called out excitedly to his friend as he dragged his (old) trunk towards the milling group of red-heads.

"Harry!" His red-haired buddy called out brightly, ducking around random body parts to get to his best friend and wrap him in a manly 'bro hug'. "It's good to see you mate!"

"Yes, simply smashing-"

"-spiffing, really-"

"-to see you again-"

"-young master Potter!" The twins greeted Harry from over Ron's shoulders, blue eyes twinkling with humor as they grinned manically in a way that was far less intimidating after a summer spent with only Xanxus for company.

"Hey Fred, George." Harry greeted back, taking in the multiplication their freckles had seemed to have experienced over the summer.

Then there was the reintroduction of the Weasley matron, a set of rules he had no intention of following, and their shopping trip began.

Some blonde ponce was doing a book signing at the bookstore, so there were about eight million people at Flourish and Blotts. Harry decided that instead of fighting the crowd, he'd browse the books near the fringe of the crowd until he could slip in and get what he needed. Harry glanced down at his book list. 'Okay, Defense Against the Dark Arts- seven books? Fucking really?'

"Hey, Ron?" Harry said to his friend, who was browsing beside him. They were currently in the history section and Harry was absently picking up books that his intuition seemed to nudge him about. At least 'intuition' was what Xanxus had called his 'sixth sense' when Harry had explained it to the man. Xanxus had also told him to follow it and if he had to choose between his intuition and logic, to go with his intuition every time.

"Yeah mate?"

"You want to go halvsies with me for DADA books?"

"You can afford them all." Ron grumbled, giving Harry a guarded look.

There was a time that Harry wouldn't have thought about the darker side of people, but now he could see the flash of jealously in his friend's eyes. Xanxus had told him, bluntly, that this was going to be an ongoing issue between the two unless Harry absolutely rejected his family's legacy. Something which Xanxus would find a way to beat the shit out of him for, so Harry decided to try his hand at diplomacy. "Yeah, and I know- you can too. But I just think it'd be stupid for each of us to buy seven books when we share both the class and the dorm."

Ron's shoulders relaxed a little. "Yeah, that makes sense, I guess."

Harry grinned brightly at his mate. "Awesome! I'll get books two, four, and six. You get books one, three, and five, and we'll split number seven?"

"Sounds good!"

After that there wasn't a whole lot of excitement, as Harry had been practicing going incognito for almost two months now, so he managed to stay away from the idiot who was doing the book signing. An impressive feat considering some idiot mentioned to the ponce doing the signing that 'Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived' was in the store and everyone started looking around for him.

'Seriously? How dumb are these people?' Harry grumbled to himself as he pushed through the throng of people. 'My scar faded and I got square rimmed glasses and they couldn't find me?' Not that he was complaining, but still, maybe Xanxus wasn't completely wrong about them being mindless fucking sheep.

There was an altercation between Mr. Weasley and Lucius Malfoy, in which Mr. Malfoy got punched in the face, which was pretty awesome. Other than that, however, they managed to complete their shopping and head back to the Burrow, which was the name of the Weasley family home.

"It's not much, but it's home." Ron said as Harry gazed around the cheery, lopsided room with bewitched knitting needles, a magic clock, and a permeating sense of warmth in wonderment.

"It's perfect." Harry breathed out happily, green eyes alight with pleasure as he took in the surroundings.

Harry didn't want to start a fight with his friend, so he waited until Ron went to take his turn in the bathroom to pull his new trunk and quickly organize his things. Harry hastily repacked it into the standard trunk along with various other items to make it seem like all he had was the original.

'Not only do I not want to argue with Ron about money.' Harry thought as he quickly went about repacking his clothes, keeping an ear out for Ron's return. 'I don't want everyone all up in my business about when I got it. Man, Xanxus' paranoia is starting to really rub off on me. Prat.'



They couldn't get through the barrier.

It had to be that demented House Elf's fault.

The rest of the Weasley family had gone ahead, as the entire group was running behind thanks to multiple trips back to the house on top of an already late start. Everyone had gone through just fine, but then Harry and Ron had smashed into the barrier.

It was now past eleven and the Express had already left.

"We'll take my dad's car!" Ron was saying beside him, "Mum and dad apparently can't get back through, so we'll just take the car to school."

"Ron." Harry said slowly, trying to talk his friend down for the fourth time since this had all started. "If they can't get back through, someone will come to check the barrier. There is no need for us to take the car. Your dad will need to come get it at some point anyways. We cannot fly a car from London to the Scottish Highlands, even if it can turn invisible."

"Harry we have to! How else are we supposed to get to school!?" Ron was nearly in hysterics, a wild glint in his eyes that did not bode well for them- or Harry's rational arguments.

"Ron." Harry tried again, putting all of his newly discovered diplomatic skills towards reasoning with his friend. "Someone will figure things out. If an hour passes and no one comes, we'll make our way to the Leaky and Floo your house and let your parents sort it out."

Ron glared at his friend. "We can't depend on the adults! Remember who had to save the Stone last year? We did!"

Harry nodded agreeably an clutched the handle of his original trunk tighter. "Yes, but that was important. This is simple. No need for heroics."

The red head gave Harry a disgusted look as he pushed up from the bench that they were seated on. "Well, if you want to be a bloody chicken and stay here, be my guest. But I am going to fix this. By myself if you're too cowardly."

Harry gawked at his friend. 'Is this the same guy I just spent two weeks with? Has Ron always been like this?' "Ron-" Harry nearly begged, an edge of panic seeping into his voice as his friend began to drag his trunk towards the lot. "-there's no need t-"

"Fine! Harry bloody Potter is a bloody chicken! I guess if there's no fame involved you just don't want to risk your precious reputation, huh?" The red-haired boy was suddenly towering over the still-seated Harry, an ugly sneer painted on his face as he gazed contemptuously down at the younger boy.

Harry, for his part, was in shock. His green eyes were wide behind his glasses, the perfected prescription allowing him to see the hostile lines and bitter edge to his friend's mouth. There was a time, not so long ago, that Harry would have done anything to keep this boy as his friend. To keep the family that the boy brought with him, the wonderful warmth and life that Harry had sampled the past few weeks.

That Harry would have gone along with an insane plan to use a flying car to get to a school in Scotland from London without much thought except for, 'I don't want to lose him.'

This Harry, however, had shared his dreamscape with a mafia assassin for almost three months.

{"Look, Harry, there comes a time in a man's life where he has to lay down his own set of rules. Where he draws lines that are not to be crossed; makes his fucking stand. I know that you will likely never be as unforgiving as I am, but that isn't why I bitch at you. I bitch because you make excuses for the worthless trash around you and it pisses me the fuck off."}

Harry stubbornly set his jaw, his spine stiffened, and he met Ron's glare head-on. "No, Ron. If you want to take a flying car to Scotland, that's fine. But I have my plan…and tha-that's what I'm going to stick with." He ignored the ache that opened up in his chest as the last vestiges of warmth faded from Ron's face, he didn't move as the other boy cursed and snarled and walked away, he just felt numb.



Harry checked the time and sighed, moving over to an out of the way corner before opening Hedwig's cage and scribbling a note to Professor McGonagall. "Fly fast, okay girl?" He murmured wetly as she nibbled at his fingers affectionately and used his arm to launch herself into the sky. Harry pushed himself as far back into his little hidey hole as he could before opening his trunk, retrieving his new one, unshrinking it, tossing the cage and his old trunk inside, and then reshrinking the new one.

'This thing is totally worth what I paid for it.' He thought, trying- and failing- to cheer himself up. 'I added a line that told her that Ron decided to make his own way, hopefully she will figure it out without Mr. Weasley getting into trouble.'

Harry made his way towards the Tube, grabbing a packaged lunch to eat along the way as he made his way back towards the Leaky Cauldron.

"Hey Tom." He called to the aged bartender as he walked into the bar. "I couldn't get through the Platform, do you know what I should do? I sent a note to Professor McGonagall that I was headed here."

Tom gave him a gummy smile. "That's unfortunate, lad! You just wait here in one of the waitin' upstairs rooms, I'm sure the Professor will be along shortly. Do you need lunch, laddie?"

Harry shook his head, but managed a smile for the helpful man, despite feeling as if his insides were hollow. "No, I ate already, thank you. Sorry for the trouble."

"None at all, laddie, none at all! The waitin' room is just up those stairs, third door on your left! Just call for Mippy if you be needing anything, you hear?"

"Thanks Tom."


It was just after four- not long after a snack had been presented to Harry by the insistently motherly Mippy- that Professor McGonagall came to collect him. "Mr. Potter?" The stern-eyed witch called out from beyond the open doorway.

Harry straightened himself and smiled welcomingly at his Head of House. "Here Professor. Sorry for the trouble."

She gave him a barely-there smile. "Not at all, Mr. Potter. The Ministry has had quite the spot of trouble with the Barrier today. They still don't know why it stopped working, but I am glad you found a sensible plan in the face of crisis."

"I take it Ron's plan ended up a bit not good?" Harry asked her with a wince.

She nodded sharply. "Indeed, Mr. Potter. Shall we?"

"Yes, Professor."


"So let me get this straight. This fucking trash takes a flying fucking car in broad fucking daylight for a joyride, gets caught, crashes into a murderous fucking tree, breaks his main weapon, and then gets mad at you for fucking having a fucking brain?"

Harry nodded tiredly from his position on the floor. Harry had his legs drawn up against his chest and his arms pillowing his head. For once he was free of tutoring materials as Xanxus stared at him in dumbfounded bemusement. "Yeah. He crashed into the Whomping Willow and the car ended up in the Forbidden Forrest. His trunk fell open, and one of the things that fell out of it was his wand. His dad is facing an inquiry at work about the car, and all he can do is moan loudly about how I was too 'chicken' to go with him. After all the points I lost last year, everyone is pretty divided about it. He's really angry that I didn't go with him, says that I betrayed him." Harry trailed off listlessly.

"Bullshit." Xanxus snarled, the ice having receded enough that he could freely move his head. "That fucking trash betrayed you."

"I don't know, I mean, even Hermione said that I should have tried harder to get him to listen or gone with him-and-and- maybe I sh-"

"Stop. Right. Fucking. Now." Xanxus breathed in through his nose and exhaled through his mouth, trying to tamp down on his wrath so he could talk this through with the shitty brat without shattering him. Xanxus was fucking proud of the kid for standing his ground against his 'friend'. The brat that he'd first met would never have had the balls to do it, but his kid had pulled through.

"Look, brat. I know that you don't see it yet, but you're gonna be badass, no matter what path you walk. The thing is, you can't surround yourself with people who constantly change their fucking mind about you. Children are cruel, vicious little fuckers, especially at this age- they're starting to come into their own, to lay the foundations of who they're gonna fucking be. They're either with you or they're not. Don't give your loyalty to people who only want you if you form yourself to who or what they think you should fucking be, it will only make you miserable."

"But, I-I mean-"


Harry's head snapped up to look at Xanxus in confusion. "Huh?"

Xanxus levelled him an unimpressed look. "You're from an old family line in a back-ass-wards society, if you're not named for that Roman fucker, I'll eat my Flames."

"They'd probably taste as bitter as your words. Give you heartburn, you prat." Harry replied sarcastically, his lips breaking into a reluctant, halfhearted grin.

Xanxus gave a grin, which was more like a baring of his teeth, but close enough. "See. That's you. If you can't be that person around your little 'friends' than you need to cut them loose. 'Cause someday your back is going to be to the fucking wall and you're gonna have the whole fucking world pressing down on you, and you can't afford to have wishy washy, fair weathered assholes around you when that happens. They're young enough, they might grow out of it, but you're different, brat. As much as you want to be, you're not like them. You were never allowed to be an actual child. You were raised in hell after your parents died and then you came face to face with the disembodied fucking spirit of their murderer. Your life isn't in any way business-as-usual and I'm warning you right now, shitty brat, to choose the people you associate with wisely 'cause they can make you or fucking break you."