Disclaimer: The characters are not mine. The plot, however, is. Sal is also mine. Fayre McKinnion sort of belongs to me- just not the last name. Any other characters that I have created are also in fact mine, unless they have some indication that part of them belonged to JK Rowling.

As to all of you who reviewed: You will see some Sirius and Remus this chapter. You will see what's going on with Ron and Hermione and if Ron will be jealous or not, once school starts. And as to my An last time- thanks for all the concern/well-wishing. But really, I'm fine. It's my friend who isn't- and she is getting better as every day goes by. It was hard to deal with it when it happened, but now seeing how much she's progressed definitely has made al the waiting worth wile and when I told her about all the reviews, she was also pleased. So thanks again.

As to why I took so long this time- I moved. Sort of. I'm attempting to attend College in Germany for a Semester, while staying with family friends. So I'm in a foreign country where I don't really speak the language that well, trying to get good enough grades so that I don't have to retake my Junior year. So please bear with me.

Anyway, with that stuff out of the way, I'll let you read on. Oh, yes, eats my formatting, so there aren't any page/scene breaks and I'm not going to go through twenty pages to search them all out. But I think you guys are smart enough to figure them out for a chapter.

Chapter 11: Trust

"Will you come out now?"

She rolled her eyes and ignored him, continuing to write.

He stamped his foot. "You haven't been outside at all yet."

She ignored him again. It was amazing the difference between the two of them. Harry was quiet; more reserved and kept almost everything to himself. He was mature beyond his years and though he could be quite pessimistic, he met everything head on.

Ron on the other hand was quite immature. He had to be cajoled into doing things that should have been given, he whined and pouted and held petty grudges and didn't understand anything.

And Ron was the one who liked her.

Which was quite exasperating indeed.

Sure, once upon a time she might have allowed herself to go on a date or two with Ron, just to prove to him that it would never work out. They argued too much, she thought he was immature; he thought she was a bookworm and so forth. After a failed date it would be much easier to say that it was doomed to fail. And maybe she'd even allow him a kiss to prove that it wasn't meant to be-not that he didn't kiss well, she'd say, but it was like kissing a brother. She knew enough not to insult a boy's kissing abilities, for her mother had once told her so on her thirteenth birthday.

So she had everything planned out, for she knew that this summer was going to be it. He would try and get her alone; she would play clueless and then allow him one date and perhaps a kiss.

But things rarely work out the way they should, especially in the wizarding world.

Everything had changed, starting when she got home. Her parents were on edge about something-her mother explained it as 'Family Troubles' involving her cousin who she hadn't heard from in almost seventeen years.

Then, she had written to Harry every day and sometimes more often in one day. Harry's state had worried her frightfully after she had seen him on the train and when it came to Harry, she could just 'sense' things, you might say. But her concern had grown when Harry wrote only sporadically at best.

Not to mention that his letters were frightfully vague. She remembered one especially.

"Dear Hermione,

Thanks. I'm fine. Bye.


With his letters saying little more than that, she had become extremely worried, but knew that contacting the Dursleys was impossible. They'd be more likely to hurt him if she were to call-plus the fact that after the first two weeks of vacation, Ron had invited her over to the Weasleys and since the Weasleys didn't have a phone, it truly was impossible.

And that was really annoying. As a child, she had always been viewed as different, as strange. Not only the fact that she spent her afternoons in the library or by various private teachers, teaching her the subjects that she did not learn at her grammar school-Latin, Greek, Decorum, the violin, flute and piano, the beginnings of philosophy and astronomy, dance and verse, but also the fact that she made strange things happen once in awhile.

When she had gotten her letter, her mother seemed to be expecting it, refusing to allow her family to go vacation until August began. She would go retrieve the mail every morning, sorting out things and getting more discouraged until one day she handed Hermione a large envelope with out postage and barely as Hermione had opened it, whisked it away, exclaiming in delight over her daughter's new status as a witch, making plans to go and by supplies the very next day.

With that in hand, Hermione then believed that perhaps the friends she had been lacking over the years would appear. She wanted nothing more than a best girl friend, someone you could tell anything to and laugh over funny things the two of you had done, discuss interesting books and music and the way learning ballet could be so trying when she had an hour of flute before hand and an hour of decorum afterwards.

In the muggle world, she had been written off as a freak. Even in the seventh class, (she had started school a year early, due to her birthday so close to the deadline and she had also skipped a class), where most girls were twelve or thirteen, they spent most of their time talking about boys, makeup and other things of that nature. Hermione had tried to fit in, but she held all of those things for nonsense, including the Astrology and fortune telling that was also 'in'.

Without any common ties, for the girls who she might have been able to relate to already had good friends and she was too shy to sit in one of their circles during break, she found herself alone, something that hurt her confidence in herself and had her crawl even more into herself, using her books and lessons as a refuge.

But upon receiving her letter, she was sure that she had finally found a way to fit in. At least the magic barrier was gone and, after visiting Diagon Alley with her mother, she had found books about wizarding life, one of which was titled: A Young Witch's Guide to Growing Up, filled with things that every young witch should know, and how none of them were things like make-up, but things like Decorum, playing at least one musical instrument, voice lessons and the beginnings of the ancient languages.

All things that she knew herself.

But as she got to Hogwarts and found a place to sit on the train, she immediately got out a book, Hogwarts, a History. No one seemed to pay any mind to her until a small boy came in, looking for his toad. She tried to start a conversation with him, but his nerves were shot, worried about finding his toad.

But when she looked for the toad herself, sensing his unease, she met two boys who quite literally changed her life.

Though, of course, she did not know it at the time.

One of them was a gangly red-head who tried to perform a piece of magic, failed and consequently began to pretend that it hadn't been his fault-the spell must have been lousy. She wrote him off as fairly immature, prone to whining if he didn't get his way and lazy.

And she was right in all regards.

The other boy, however, was different. He was tiny for one thing, looked to be about eight, though she had learned that to attend Hogwarts, you had to be eleven by 31st August of that particular year-a reason she was starting with her twelfth birthday weeks away. His clothes dwarfed him even more, he looked underfed and not very well cared for, but his eyes were a brilliant emerald green underneath raven black hair that stuck out every which way and she could see that even though he looked tiny, he was mature-extremely mature, used to hard circumstances and relatively open-minded.

In other words, he was the complete opposite of the boy next to him.

When they were introduced, she had been surprised, but pleased to hear that the small boy happened to be Harry Potter. Instantly she found herself trusting that boy-a good thing indeed when most of the wizarding world felt as if their lives were in his hands.

She was Sorted later that day, put into Gryffindor after a short discussion about where she could go-Ravenclaw was out, for she needed to break away from using books as a barrier-Slytherin would never work because she'd just pull herself into her hidden world of books even more-Hufflepuff would do nothing either way-but Gryffindor would help her. Gryffindor would allow her to come out from behind her pile of books and lessons and give her friends.

The only thing wrong with that statement was who her Housemates happened to be.

Paravati and Lavender-probably perfectly nice girls, but just like the girls she had known at her muggle school, their heads filled with fashion and boys and other things of that nature. Elizabeth and Anna-two girls who were incredibly shy, both good friends since childhood and though Anna had confessed that she and Elizabeth had only been Sorted into Gryffindor because the Hat had sensed the way both girls had helped apprehend a murderer when he murdered Anna's mother in front of their eyes and had decided that merited bravery. But otherwise she felt that she also had nothing in common with the two girls who were quite happy to stay to them selves and merit no attention.

Actually, she wondered if practically anyone else in Hogwarts even noticed their presences.

She realised she was left alone again and thusly used her books as a barrier again-knowing all the answers, practicing spells after lessons, striving to be the best so she would have at least some recognition.

That is, until Harry Potter intervened, along with the reluctant help of Ronald Weasley.

To say that she and Harry were closer was a vast understatement. With Harry, she felt that she could truly come out from behind her books, just as the Sorting Hat had said. She could be herself, not having to worry about saying anything wrong or making a mistake.

It was with Ron that she felt uncomfortable at first; finally growing enough that she could take his taunts and arguments and ignore them. But Harry had always been her preference and she knew she could relate to him more. The only problem was that Harry seemed to have come to a point where he was pushing everything and everyone away-including her and Ron had come to a point where he had decided he needed her.

The question of who needed her the most was easy to answer-Harry. But the consequences were hard to deal with, especially since for the first time she was alone with Ron at the Weasleys had running to Ginny worked only so many times.

Soon she was going to have to confront Ron-forget about a date to slowly let him down- and tell him that in truth she felt nothing more for him than friendship and in times that was hard to feel.

She knew that Ron would be devastated, then confused and then furious. She knew that he would blame it on her and Harry. Saying that Harry got everything he wanted, Harry was the best.

And the worst part was that part of those allegations was true. No, Harry did not have a family, or the security that he would grow up to a ripe old age or even graduate from school.

But one part was true-that Harry would have her. She would always be there for him, a helping hand, a light leading him out of the darkness. And-and something more.

For Hermione had realised something this past summer as she waited anxiously for answers from Harry, as she spent hours writing letters, as she searched for spells Harry could use and as she searched for things that might cheer him up.

She had realised that she felt much, much more than friendship for Harry Potter.

She realised that she was in love with him.

She had come to that revelation a few days ago, after waking up from a dream where Harry was ripped out of her sight and she fell down on her knees, the energy drained from her. Although she had tried to write off the dream as nonsense, it kept on coming back to her and she finally had begun to analyze it.

And then it had hit her-what she was feeling.

Now she had decided it was her mission to care for Harry. Sure, it'd be nice if her feelings were reciprocated, but that wasn't the most fore-invading thing in her mind. No, she admitted, even though it would hurt her to see Harry with someone else, she would still stay by his side. He needed her-an unwavering base at his side, someone who he could always turn to, someone who loved him unconditionally; someone who would do anything for him.

And this was her.

She knew that Ron would never be able to give Harry the stability he needed. Ron was petty-drawn to jealousies and fear and immature. He was incredibly self-centred as well, although Hermione had to admit he held it well. He was arrogant, when he was allowed to be, and incredibly closed minded.

Actually, Hermione mused, if I think of Ron that way…all you'd have to do was change houses and families and of course hair colour-and you'd have the perfect twin of Draco Malfoy…

That particular thought scared her to pieces, she realised. Because it was only too true. She just hoped that Ron would never have to make a choice someday-a choice between the Dark and the Light. Because to tell the truth; she had no idea which he'd been inclined to decide.

Whichever one that would give him the fame and wealth he desires…

And shutting her eyes, she tunes out Ron, afraid to meet his eyes as he protests to her writing.

She dips the quill in ink and begins.

"Dear Harry,

I know that you've been through a lot. I know that you're having problems dealing with it all. I know that if I'm having nightmares, yours must be a hundred times worse.

But I am your best friend, Harry, and I'm not ever going to forget you or leave you. God damn it, Harry James Potter, I know you're hurting, but it's hurting you even more to keep all your emotions locked up inside you. I know you don't like to reveal what you're thinking, for Voldemort is certainly a very real threat, but Harry, talk to me.

I swear that I will never betray you-I'll swear in my blood if I have to. But don't shut me out. One of the best forms of therapy is talking, Harry, and this would do you a load of good. Please, Harry, please write to me, and not some meaningless letter. Let me into your life, Harry, because you're my best-friend and I love you.

With these words said, Harry, I await your reply. And please don't close up on me. You need someone to talk to and I'd be honoured to do it. More than honoured, it would make my life actually worth something. I agreed to be your friend knowing what it would entail and I'm not about to back out.

As a candle-flame believes in the speed of light,

I believe in you.

With Love,

Hermione Aglaia Granger

She signed it, sealed it and handed it to the out-stretched leg Pig held out to her.

Then she turned around, relieved that Ron had left.

A few minutes later she had helped herself to some pumpkin juice and a few cookies that Mrs Weasley had left out for a snack. She was just about to go up to the attic-although it was unbearably hot up there, she had received permission from Mr and Mrs Weasley to explore up there and make some order.

She liked to do it because it allowed her to think. Mr Weasley had once confessed that the Burrow had once been a magnificent house-but after an accidental fire they had built it up new. Only the attic was saved-full of old and discarded items for the last several centuries.

She had already discovered some dress robes just like the ones Ron had worn last year, a female version of them, several broken wands, ruined spell-books, cauldrons with the bottoms eaten away, most likely by a miss made potion, old hats eaten away by the wizarding version of moths and broken toys.

Hermione had thought that she might find something of value-something that would make Ron perk up a little and not become so jealous if he had something that actually belonged to him. But so far she had found nothing and understood why the Weasleys themselves never tried to use anything up there.

It was, in other words, all junk.

She sighed, wiping a tendril of hair. She had her hair back with a headband, but it didn't help much. Her hair went almost down to her waist and was hot and kept sticking to the back of her neck. She knew she should have taken up her mother's offer of getting her hair cut- Sandra Granger had hair that went a few centimetres past her shoulders and thusly was her hair much more curly than bushy.

It also wasn't as hot in the summer.

Hermione set down the book she was flipping through-it was a Hogwarts school book that got some kind of potion on it that eroded several of the pages- and sat down on a trunk. She had remarked to Mr Weasley once a few days ago on how fascinating she found going through the attic. Yes it was hot and most of the things were broken, but she still found it incredibly interesting. After all, she had found several dolls in the attic, one of which had been Ginny's, all of them dressed up in the wizarding fashions of the time and a few of them had holes where Mrs Weasley had explained were for a wand-inserting a wand and twisting it would allow the doll to come to life for a short while-crying, crawling and even eating and wetting!

When she had said how fascinating it was, Mr Weasley had smiled, but shaken his head. She had asked what was wrong and she still remembered his answer. 'Nothing's wrong, Hermione,' he had said, 'but if you enjoy going through our attic so much, I suggest you go through the Manor House's attic in Godric's Hollow. Our attic is filled with things that have no use because our family is one for re-using things as many times as it's possible. But the Potters…I know Harry doesn't talk about his money very much, but you might want to ask him some time if he knows actually how much money he has. The Potters are incredibly old, Hermione, and they've always been rich. Lily Potter once mentioned something about taking a look in the attic once and how amazed she was-and I think you'd have the same reaction. Most of the things there are still in working order and the robes you could wear today if you wanted to-they've never gone out of style. In comparison, Hermione, I must admit that our attic will probably seem fairly dismal'.

As Mr Weasley had been speaking, she had seen Ron slowly creep into the kitchen, staying in the shadows and then cringing as he heard his father's words, silently sneaking out again. It was just another example for Ron to add on his list of how Harry got everything

Getting lost in her thoughts, she never noticed how the door opened as a figure hoisted them selves up through the floor. That is, until it was too late and the book went flying through her hands.

"Got you, Hermione!"

Hermione turned around slowly until she noticed who it was. Ginny was standing there, but before Hermione had time to notice the wand in her hands, or the fact that Ginny had just unarmed her, she was being pulled up to her feet and being led down stairs.

Ginny shook her head, shoving a curl out of eyes. Out of the Weasleys, only Ron and Ginny had curly hair. Ron's wasn't that curly, but it was at least curlier than Fred and George, who had sort of wavy hair. But Ginny had curly hair down to her shoulder blades and bangs that curled as well.

Hermione also had curly hair, but it was such a strange mixture or wavy and curly and straight that her mother kept on telling her to cut it so it would curl properly. Plus the fact that the ends were cut kind of layered-she had allowed her muggle cousin to play hair dresser two summers ago, when they were about to start Third Year. She hadn't had her hair cut since then and it was growing out now with the same pointed ends Cressida had cut.

To say that Harry and Ron noticed her haircut was definitely a falsehood-she doubted that they had even paid her appearance a second glance.

She followed Ginny down the stairs, out into the garden, past the line of trees until they came to a large tree that held a small house up in its branches. Ginny grasped a ladder that unfurled as she knocked on the trunk three times and then started to climb up. Hermione followed.

The tree house contained five chairs, a table, a chest of drawers, and other sorted items like a blanket and hammock, parchment and a branch that Hermione made out to be an owl perch. Ginny drew out her wand, waved it and muttered 'silencite nos', waved it again and muttered 'celte nos'. Two flashes of light appeared and Hermione gasped as they disappeared.

"Ginny! We're not allowed to use magic out of school!"

Ginny stuck her wand in her shorts pocket and shook her head, pulling out a chair and sitting in it. "Well, technically you're right. But they only really control it in muggle households, where it's obvious who's using the magic. Here, for instance, all I have to do is say that it was Mum or Percy or someone else-I could even blame it on Fred or George or Ron. It's too hard to control. And even though they go by magical signature, it's still hard to trace. Each family has its own signature-it's own colour, so it's easy to find out what family it's from. But to track down the signature in a family is practically impossible. So they leave it."

Hermione blinked, but then frowned. "But that's not really fair, is it? I mean, Harry and I can't do any magic because we live with muggles, but you and Ron can. And I bet Draco Malfoy is constantly doing magic."

"Well, I can tell you that Mum and Dad don't like Ron, the twins and me to do magic over the summer, but you're probably right about Malfoy. Actually, all you need is one other witch or wizard in your family, like...Seamus Finnegan or Emma Cassell, a girl in my year whose father is a wizard. So yeah, it's unfair, but most parents still enforce that rule-it's families like the Malfoys who don't." Ginny rolled her eyes.

"But-" and she became serious, "that's not what I wanted to talk to you about."

Hermione looked at her. "What is it then?"

"The way you've been acting." Ginny started to fiddle with her wand, but keeping her gaze on Hermione. "Something's up, Hermione. You haven't been sleeping very well, you're being incredibly quiet and withdrawn, you spend all your time writing letters and in the attic and when we went to Diagon Alley, you didn't even want to come, and when Mum made you, you went straight to Flourish and Blotts and started looking in the Defence Section."

She held up a hand as Hermione started to interrupt. "Just wait a minute. Look, we're all worried about Harry, but you're going to extremes. I'm not sure what's up between the two of you, but I want you to know that I'm here for you, Hermione. And then of course there's my brother, who's been acting exceedingly like a prat this summer. So confess."

Hermione looked down onto the table, tracing the grain with her finger. It was old, probably since Bill had been little. And there were names carved into it...she froze. There were nine names, each with dates behind them. Bill, 1970; Charlie, 1972; Timmie, 1975; Maddie, 1979; Percy, 1982; Fred and George, 1984; Ronnie, 1986, Ginny, 1987. It seemed that there was a name for each Weasley child and a date when they must have been around six. But there were two more names...Timmie and Maddie. She looked up questioningly at Ginny,

Ginny sighed when she realised what Hermione had seen. "This tree-house...Dad built it when Bill was six. It's been a tradition to carve your name on the table when you're six years old...all of us kids have done it. We used this tree-house to hang out when we were little. I used to come up here with a doll...one of the drawers is still filled with doll stuff. Ron used to draw Quidditch pictures, Fred and George used to hide here from Mum when they played a prank...we've all used it.

"But Maddie and Timmie...I never met them, Ron was a few weeks old and Fred and George don't really remember either." She pursed her lips. "They would be twenty-six and twenty-two, right between Percy and Charlie. If you really want to know about them, ask Charlie or Percy, don't ask Mum or Dad.

"They were killed...murdered, actually. It was when Ron was a baby, like I said, a few weeks old. The McKinnions were at school with Mum and Dad....Melanie and David. Mum had to go to the midwife with Ron for a check-up, something that all newborns have to go through. Get blood taken, get tested for diseases, stuff like that. Percy was at a friend's...he had spent the night. Bill and Charlie were at Hogwarts...Mum would have left Fred and George at the McKinnions' too, but she didn't want to have them suffer Fred and George's antics...so she brought them with to the hospital.

"The one time Mum talked about it was when I stumbled on some pictures of them. She thinks it's all her fault...apparently they both begged to be left at home. After all, Timmie was due to start Hogwarts in September and Maddie, Madeline, really, just like Timmie was really Timothy...anyway, Timmie was turning eleven and Maddie was seven...Timmie didn't want to go to the McKinnions, he wanted to stay at home and so did Maddie...but You-Know-Who was at the top of his power and Mum didn't dare leave the two of them home alone...

"Well, Mum never could have known, I mean, who could have? No one knew what Voldemort was planning on doing...at least Shylah McKinnion was at school along with her younger brother Keith...but he attacked the McKinnions, when Timmie and Maddie were there.

"They died; at least that's what we all expect. After all, they were just children and even though there weren't any bodies there along with Melanie and David McKinnions' bodies, there's no other explanation. After all, the Potters are dead and their bodies were never found...well, not much of them, anyway. I once heard Mum and Dad talking about it...how there was nothing but glasses and pieces of ripped cloth from clothing and their wands. So Timmie and Maddie are dead and we don't talk about them anymore, not really."

Hermione looked up at Ginny, who was now staring out of the window, her cheeks glistening. "I-I'm sorry, Ginny."

Ginny shook her head. "No," she said, grabbing a tissue from a box in the corner and wiping her eyes, "I'm all right. Or at least I will be. It's just that we never talk about them...Mum hid the photo albums after that...no one knows where they are. All I have...is this."

She reached down into her shirt, pulling out a heart-shaped locket. She fiddled with the clasp, handing it to Hermione.

There were two people in the locket- a boy of about ten and a girl of about six. They both had bright red hair, both of them had heads full of curls and they both were smiling. The girl was missing a tooth. They both had blue eyes and the boy looked a lot like Ron. They both wore robes of turquoise. The girl wore the very same locket Hermione was holding.

Ginny must have noticed Hermione's expression, because she started to speak. "The clasp was broken; Fred and George had pulled on it. Mum had promised that she'd get it fixed while they were at the McKinnions'...she never was able to give it back. After Mum and Dad told the story, Mum gave the locket to me. She told me how the both of them were really close...like Bill and Charlie are and Fred and George. I-well, when I'm feeling lousy, I guess you could say, I sometimes talk to it...I used to imagine what she might be like if she were alive...twenty-two...eight years older than me."

Hermione closed it and handed it back to Ginny. "I'm sorry, Ginny, I really am. I lost my grandmother a year ago, but it wasn't the same thing. I don't really know what to say."

Ginny looked up, finishing clasping the necklace around her neck. "Well...perhaps you could tell me what's going on between you and Harry and you and my brother?"

Harry rolled his eyes as Madame Pomfrey kept on giving him new instructions. Don't run, walk slowly, don't do anything to strenuous, stay calm, sleep a lot, etc. He could feel Sal in the back of his neck, apparently invisible. Sal had explained that by touching him, it was possible for him to draw the magic out of Harry and use it turn invisible.

Finally sent on his way, Harry made for the Headmaster's office. He still needed to know what was happening, what he was supposed to do for the rest of the summer, the Hogwarts Letter he never received…where he was supposed to stay…what the situation was with Lily and James…how long they were staying…

But before he could get there, he was stopped by an owl. Harry frowned, until he realised whose it was. Pig dove through the air, flying by Harry's head, pulling back up as Harry made a grab for him. Harry sighed in exasperation as Sal hissed in amusement. He did not need this right now.

But as he thought that, Pig stopped, as if he were frozen. Harry made a face, realising that something was indeed up. Another reason to go see the Headmaster-he could ask about the Healing and odd things that kept on happening to him lately.

He took the letter from Pig, thanking the owl and as soon as he dismissed the owl, Pig was instantly free and flew away. Harry shook his head and turned around, deciding to read the letter in stead.

He walked to Gryffindor Tower, stuck in his thoughts. He could still feel Sal's weight upon his neck, but he didn't feel like talking to Sal at the moment. He just wanted to be left alone, to go crawl into a hole somewhere and not come out for a long time.

Spending ten years in the cupboard under the stairs made him feel comfortable with loneliness. Actually, what he couldn't stand were crowds, lots and lots of people...things like that. Open spaces bothered him as well, as did always being in someone's company.

When he had first arrived at Hogwarts, it was the novelty of the situation that had shocked him and had allowed him to ignore the part of him that was urging him to disappear into the crowd, to find a place where he could be alone.

But he had ignored it as best he could and tried to concentrate on everything but that, so that he could ignore the urge to climb into himself and become part of the wall. And, he admitted, after a while the urge hadn't become as strong. He had friends and he knew that, if he really needed it, he could have some time to himself. But the urges had lessened and now, for the most part, they were gone.

It was only in situations like this, were everything was changing around him, where everything was confusing and in disarray and he couldn't find a way out, that he wanted to disappear again. He wanted to find some place where he could be left alone, some place where no one could reach him, some place where it was only him and himself. Nothing more, nothing less.

But being the saviour of the wizarding world wasn't being very helpful. He never could just disappear and even the times he excused himself from Ron and Hermione to be alone or the times he would sneak away, the heroism never left him. It was always a part of him, always on his mind.

Before, it had been bearable. Sure, he had gone through hard times before-one instance when he was eight and he learned that seeing his blood was a thrill and a calming measure for him. He had managed to sneak away one of Uncle Vernon's razors and had watched with glee as the red liquid that symbolised his life dripped out of his arm. But then a teacher had noticed when he fainted in gym, and had sent him to the school's psychologist.

She had called up the Dursleys and they in turn had yelled at him, threatened him and Uncle Vernon had even beat him to get the message in his head that if he wanted to mutilate himself, that was fine with them, but he better not do it so that other people caught on.

Or there was the time that he had tried to drown him self. He could swim-Aunt Petunia would take Dudley to swimming lessons every summer and Harry was once in awhile asked to join in if not too many children were there. He had caught on to it quickly, but the sneaked in lessons vanished after the swimming teacher remarked that Harry seemed to have a talent for swimming and that she'd like him to join the older children in the advanced swim courses, even though he was six. Aunt Petunia had been furious that Dudley was afraid of the water-every single year he had refused to even get into the water and that Harry was a natural. So the lessons stopped.

When he was nine, his class took a day-trip to the park. Aunt Petunia had allowed him to go along since it didn't cost anything. At the park there was a large lake where ducks swam, boots could be rented and there was also a swimming section. Several of the children went swimming, but because Aunt Petunia hadn't marked the paper that he could swim, he wasn't allowed in.

That didn't really faze him, because he didn't want to swim. He was mad-at the Dursleys, at himself, at the world. He felt helpless, he had been beaten the day before and he was beginning to feel useless. He was beginning to believe Uncle Vernon: that the world was better off with out him.

So when Piers 'accidentally' knocked Harry into the water, Harry didn't try to swim or save himself. He purposely tried to sink. He found the feeling of using up all his air, of not being able to breath, the light-headiness that was ensuing comforting. He refused to fight the water, allowing it to take himself into its depths.

And he probably would have drowned too, had not the teacher turned at the splash and raced over to him, calling for someone to call an ambulance as she managed to pull him out of the water before he turned blue and stopped breathing.

Later he learned that if he had been in the water another minute he would have succeeded. But he had been rescued, but after having water pumped out of lungs at the hospital and having the Dursleys complain at the cost of the hospital bills, he was pronounced in good order.

There were other times too-the time he tried to burn himself, the time he had poisoned himself and other experiences as well. But most of the time he was content to sit in his cupboard in the darkness and think. He'd imagine what his parents were like-what they looked like, what they had done, where they had lived...making up a fantasy about them.

Or he'd just close his eyes and project himself in other situations. He hadn't done it in years, close his eyes, relax and imagine another place, perhaps seen in a book or in a hurried glance at the telly when Dudley was watching, but it had always soothed him. It was as if he was there-he could touch everything, he could smell everything, he could see everything. He'd even talk to people if they were there, sometimes frightening them by mistake. And once....well, once he had sworn he had brought back a leaf...

And as he entered the Common Room, he decided that that's what he'd do now. After the letter. For, even though Pig had delivered it, the writing was undoubtedly Hermione's. And he figured he knew what she wanted.

An answer.

"You-you're dead."

"Really? I didn't know..." James shook his head at his best-friend in mock-scolding. "It isn't nice to call people dead."

"But-I saw you."

"Really? And do you trust everything you see?"

Remus watched his two friends from the side, deciding to stay out of it. Sirius was right-James was dead. On the other hand, Sirius hadn't seen the body because Remus had also visited Godric's Hollow and the small cottage James and Lily had stayed at the week prior to their deaths. James and Lily's bodies were simply not there. Or, in reality, Remus mused, they were there, just microscopic and in pieces. Voldemort had loved to literally destroy the bodies of his most hated enemies after he had used the Killing Curse. So truth was that the bodies were there, just in pieces. Only remnants of bloody clothing had been found, as well as James's glasses and their wands.

And Harry, of course.

But now James Potter was standing in front of them. Sure, he looked a bit different-his eyes, though they still held the same mischievousness that Remus remembered and easy-going, good-natured ness, but they also held more. Weariness, for Remus recognised that in himself, and wisdom, which was a bit more surprising, but then, this was James.

James Potter, who could ace an exam without a bit of studying, perform difficult spells on the first try, come up with amazing ideas on how to prank, strategise or fight. And he was also older-though wizards certainly didn't age very much-Minerva McGonagall was going on seventy and still looked like she was in her late forties-James still had changed a bit. He still looked the same the last time Remus saw him alive, except for subtle differences that no one would pick up on unless they were really looking.

Which Remus was.

But, he had to admit that this was James Potter. This was not some potion made, or anything else. This was James Potter alive, in the flesh. Now the only question was how.

How did James appear, healthy though a bit weary, in the Headmaster's office, fourteen years after his death?

And why?

Why not sooner? Why at all? Did someone finally learn how to raise the dead? The art of Necromancy had not only been outlawed in the last century, but Necromancy was also an inherited Power, something that very few had and as far as Remus knew, there weren't any anymore. So how could James Potter suddenly appear after fourteen years?

He turned to Sirius, who was still staring at James. His gaze travelled then over to James and finally over to Dumbledore.

And then he summed it all up in one question.

"Headmaster, what is going on?"

She shivered in the cold light, wrapping her arms around her. Magic didn't seem to work in this place, where ever it was. What ever it was, she silently added. This wasn't her first visit there, or her last, she knew. And she was used to it, in a strange way.

Nonetheless she shivered, her eyes taking in the scenery. Often she was alone. There was a road, though it really wasn't much more than a path. Weeds grew along the side of the dirt, winding in a direction that she couldn't see. The light there was always dim, like twilight. A blind man's holiday, her mother had always called the twilight. A time where it is too dark to see, but not dark enough to light candles. A time where the seeing could see no more than the blind.

She sat on a rock by the side. There were several rocks here, and her first time she had come, she had explored them all diligently, seeking a way out. This place didn't agree with her much. It was eerie, with a slight wind blowing, but silent, dark and non-descript. She wanted out, but knew she had to wait.

Perhaps the woman would come, she mused. Perhaps she'd at least have some company.

So she sat and waited, trying to use her magic again, even though her attempts were always in vain. This place seemed to repel magic, or at least cancel it out. She felt hopeless with out her magic. She had come to lean upon it, as a crutch. Something that would never go away.

But here it did go away, and left her with out anything. At least when she woke up, her magic would return. When she woke up…which was a long ways away.

So she drew her knees up to her chest, minding her robes, and began to think. There was nothing else to do, after all.

A small path led between the trees over a small brook to a small cottage. The two elderly women, who didn't look that elderly, walked along, silently mulling over the information one of them had brought.

Minerva was the first to break the silence. "I'm worried, Fayre."

The other woman, her hair an ash colour, her dark eyes lined with worry, looked up. Fayre McKinnion, one of the last of the McKinnion Family. Her elder brother had been killed by Grindelwald, her nephew and niece-in-law by Voldemort, her only living relatives being Keith, her great-nephew and Shylah, her great-niece.

She rarely saw them anymore, she had remarked to Minerva. Shylah was off somewhere, Siberia, she believed, studying magical currents or something. Keith was married, had his own son, and didn't have much time for his elderly great-aunt. Minerva had nodded softly. She knew what it was like.

But when she spoke, Fayre looked up. "I know." And she did. She knew what Minerva was going through; she knew it all too well.

"The Order's going to be called soon."

"I know."

They walked again in silence, trying to concentrate on the nature around them. But the silence wouldn't last.

"She has to be dead, Minnie. She can't be alive anymore…she was so powerful…and they were once very much alike. She would have found a way to break away."

Minerva nodded, stopping to turn and look at her old friend. Two years behind her at Hogwarts, Fayre McKinnion had become a friend soon after she had graduated. They and Mundungus Fletcher were all that were left of a circle of friends, seven friends that had been pulled apart by Darkness.

She cleared her throat, searching for words. "I-" She closed her eyes, bringing up an image, "I know. And that's-that's what is so hard…to think of that. To think of all the lives, which have been destroyed: all the families and friendships. The-the Codex, half the families there don't exist anymore.

"And now-now he's back. Eleven years he reigned the first time before he fell. Will it be another eleven? Will we survive it at all?"

Fayre stared into the small brook running by. "I think all we need is to believe. Losing her was like loosing a part of me-both times. But, now, now all we need is to believe. Believe in ourselves, in our cause. We're out to stop a tyrant, a Dark Wizard from taking over the entire world. We have the Heavens on Our Side, Minnie. We can manage it…we just have to have faith. Faith and trusting and everything else that makes up the Light Magic: the Light Side."

Minerva nodded almost imperceptibly. "If that's true, Fay-we're going to need a lot. Because it's Harry who has to learn to trust and I can say that after spending the last few days with him-it's going to take him a lot to learn. Our lives, our world-they're resting on his shoulders. And without his trust, we're going to loose."

"I-I don't know where to begin." Her gaze wandered everywhere but the girl in front of her.

But Ginny, being the youngest in a family of seven, wasn't distracted. "Hermione. Tell me."

Hermione sighed, shutting her eyes tightly, calling up pictures of her two best friends. Harry was a clear picture, but instead of imagining him looking like when she first saw him, she saw him as she saw him in her dreams, tall, adult looking, his eyes cold as he gripped a handle of a sword, his robes torn and bloody, a golden aura covering him like a blanket, a snake on his shoulder, hissing in his ear.

She opened her eyes hurriedly, shocked at what she had seen. It was Harry, sure knew that, the lightning bolt scar was visible and his bright green eyes positively glowed. But the way he stood, as if he was the most confident being in the world, as if nothing could defeat him…it wasn't Harry. At least not the same Harry she went to school with, the same Harry she had kissed on the cheek before she left King's Cross.

Ginny looked at her concernedly and Hermione shook her head to show that nothing was wrong. "I-it's nothing, Ginny, don't worry."

Ginny nodded unbelieving, but motioned for her friend to continue. Hermione did so.

She closed her eyes again, calling up a picture of Ron. This time, it was a younger version of Ron-she guessed him to be around eight or nine. He was having a tantrum, screaming and stomping his feet and making doors bang open as he stood outside Quality Quidditch Supplies, where they were displaying a new broom.

She slowly opened her eyes, her mind reeling of the differences between the two pictures.

Harry: adult, commanding, powerful, confident.

Ron: childish, impatient, uncontrollable, making a scene.

The meaning was clear. The meaning was now clear to her. There was no doubt in her mind.

She looked at Ginny, meeting Ginny's dark eyes. "I'll tell you, Ginny, I'll tell you everything."

He studied the letter, reading it many times through. But as he read it, he knew what his reply was going to be. Nothing. For there was nothing he could write in a letter. His feelings were numb. They were trapped inside of him, frozen after James and Lily had appeared.

He didn't like not knowing what was going on with himself. Especially after his introduction to the wizarding world. And now-he was stuck. He knew nothing, could do nothing to help himself. His feelings were frozen.

And so he sat down in front of the fire, and called upon it, waiting for it to appear to him, waiting so that he could find Her.

Find Her and ask Her what the Hell was going on.

She looked up as she heard the footsteps. The Lady was back, wearing the same robes she always wore, the same misty glow around her. She stood up, waiting for the Lady to approach.

The Lady stopped a few steps before her and she bowed to her, as she always did. She didn't know why she bowed to the Lady, but it seemed to belong. Belong to this place, she guessed.

"Back again?" The Lady's voice was something that echoed in her mind, something not palpable: something not of this world. The Lady smiled at her thoughts, and she instantly hushed them.

"Yes," she spoke, using her mouth, not her mind, "I'm back."

The Lady just looked at her. "What caused it this time?"

She knew that the Lady already knew-the Lady had a habit of never asking a question she didn't know the answer to. But she felt compelled to answer. "Seeing him. Seeing him in bed, the look on his face when he saw me-one he'd give a stranger. And everything else, I guess…everything just combined."

"You need to stop coming here."

She looked at the Lady in surprise. The Lady had never told her to stop coming, in fact, when she did meet the Lady, the Lady always seemed to await her return. "You-I'm not to come back?"

The Lady shook her head. "No. You don't need this or me anymore. You don't need me to focus your mind, to clear your thoughts, to allow you to get a hold of your self anymore. You need to do it yourself. And I'm needed: needed by someone who needs me a lot more than you do."

"Harry." She thought it, but the Lady nodded in confirmation.

"Yes. He needs me now, especially with what's going to come. I've spent the summer with him, helping him, but he's not done yet. He can't help it-he has a lot to learn. But you-you know better now."

She looked at the Lady, as the Lady started to swim before her eyes. "What's happening? It hasn't been long enough yet."

"You don't need me anymore, so you're leaving. Good bye, dear, good bye."

Lily sat up in bed, her eyes wide, taking in the darkened room as she took calming breaths.

It was over, her mind repeated. It was over.

"So let me get this straight. You and Lily are from an Alternate Universe where you two didn't die, but Harry did. And Voldemort's been back for the last several years, but the Death Eaters never stopped fighting." Remus paced around the room, frowning. "The question is why are you here, and how? Is something going to happen? Was this truly an accident or some plan of someone's? And what are you going to do here? I know Lily can manage to keep quiet and stay low, but you certainly can't."

James looked affronted by the last remark and was about to interrupt as Sirius managed to get in a word first.

"Come on, Moony, live a bit. Prongs is back! Alive! So he's from a different Universe, who cares? Think of all the pranks we can play…" Sirius's eyes glazed up in happiness.

Remus frowned. "I understand what you want, Sirius, but I think that there are more pressing manners than playing pranks. James doesn't belong here, you know, and his own world probably wants him back. And we still don't know how this happened."

"Aw, Moony, let's just have some fun. So, Prongs, what am I like in your world?"

And this is where James had a problem. Sirius here was very different than the Sirius James had known for the last fourteen years. For one thing, the absence of Azkaban showed. This Sirius, though he was getting his colouring and personality back, was different. The haunted-look in his eyes was something James doubted would ever go away, as well as the way his skin kept that pale tone.

And Sirius held himself differently-not the confident Auror that James, knew, but a defeated criminal on the run. But then, the way Sirius had acted, seeing James or his quest to play pranks…those had never left.

Plus, James added, the fact that Sirius here didn't have a family to take care was another thing. This Sirius seemed to be fighting to become the man he once had been, not the man he had to be. There was a difference between the twenty-year-old Sirius that had pretended to play the part of Secret Keeper, and the thirty-four year old Sirius that James had seen last week as he and Sirius had taken Meira to a Quidditch Match.

And the Secret Keeper fiasco was another thing. After the initial 'It's all my fault that you're dead' speech and pleading, Sirius had transformed himself into an impatient man who wanted nothing more than to play with his two best friends, find his godson and revel in the past.

Sirius (and James thought it was quite annoying to have to call them both Sirius), the other one (the original one), had taken about a week to get over the fact that Harry was dead and it was his decision to switch Secret Keepers. James and Lily held no blame over his head-they know it hadn't been his fault. And after the incident, Sirius's old character slowly started to come back.

The Death Eater attacks, his off-and-on relationship with Talia, Meira and many other factors contributed to the fact that he wasn't the same person he used to be. He had grown up, and did occasionally bring his youth back to the surface. But those times were rare-thank heavens, he had been traumatised by that x-ray spell on his glasses-who ever would have thought McGonagall wore pink underpants. The point, however, was that the two Siriuses he knew were quite different-and he had no idea how to explain that.

He screwed up his face, thinking. There had to be something that he could use to change the topic-to make some kind of joke… "Well, Padfoot, you're big, fat and ugly, but then, now I think there isn't much difference between the two of you."

"Hey!" But the tension had been broken as the three of them began to laugh and the Headmaster stood, smiling at them all.

"I think…I think it started this summer. Or maybe last year…yes, that's when it started. It wasn't something I expected to happen. It wasn't even anything I wanted to happen. It…it just appeared. Or maybe it didn't-I don't know. God, Ginny, for once in my life I just don't know."

She hid her face in her hands, lying on the table. She could feel the tears coming down her face, sliding into her nose and mouth. She could taste them-they were salty, bittersweet. Pictures flashed through her mind-one of her when she was little, with her parents-one when she got her letter-one when she was rescued by Harry and Ron-they went on and on, never stopping.

She felt a hand on her back, beginning to rub. It was Ginny. She could hear her soothing voice.

"It's all right, Herms, it's all right. Don't cry, dry your tears. You'll manage. You're such a strong person, Hermione, you'll make it. Come now, Hermione, come. Dry your tears."

On and on Ginny went, and she cried more and more. She could not stop. She could not get rid of the pictures within her mind-pictures of the past, present and future. The same picture she had seen before, with Harry in bloodied, dirty robes, his sword in his hand, kept on repeating, as well as the picture with Ron having a tantrum.

She had decided. She had decided and now her decision, her fate was set. These pictures-they were just reminders of it. They were reminders and memories, memories that would no longer have meaning. Memories that she would give up in a moment, only to be with him, only to be able to protect, to save, to love him…

She had reached a cross roads. She had decided. She had set her fate.

And now she was being punished, soothed, warned what was in store for her.

She shoved her chair away from the table, lifting her head up and opening her eyes. They were blood-shot, red from her tears. But as she looked at Ginny and blinked, they were instantly normal again.

She stood, meeting Ginny's gaze.

"I'm ready, Ginny. I've set my fate. What is coming will come Ginny."

Her voice became even more steady, her gaze intensified.

"It's all up to him, Ginny. It's all up to Harry."

And Ginny watched in horror as she fainted.

I hoped you liked the chapter. That was twenty pages. Next chapter continues all the scenes right away, so I hope that you can bear with me until then.

Chapter twelve is twenty-three pages and half-done. I'm debating if I should just cut it off, or keep on writing. Continuing it will take longer, but it will finally finish up the Summer and allow me to write Chapter Thirteen as the start of school. I still haven't decided. If you have a wish, please review.

Chapter Twelve: Snape reminices, Lily tries to make sense of it all, a lot more of James, Sirius and Remus, and we find out a bit more about the Lady. Hermione and Ginny talk and Sal attempts explaining. More, of course, but there have to be some surprises.

-Myra, 10/8/2004