TITLE: Enemy Mine (1/?)

AUTHOR NAME: Alia / Sever Us

CATEGORY: Drama (with shards of humour, action and romance)

KEYWORDS: Harry, Sirius, Remus, Draco, Fifth Year

RATING: R (for violence and distress – also some adult situations to come)

SPOILERS: All Books

SUMMARY: Enemies, friends, pain, redemption? Harry must come to terms with the horrors he's witnessed and experienced – but how? Reprieves are tempered with added misery, but an unwelcome house guest is the least of Harry's troubles. Plotting death eaters, an angry and vengeful dark lord, a swarm of Veela, a godfathers innocence to prove, muggle relatives that just won't go away and what's this about a pesky prophesy?! All this plus Quidditch, new classes and responsibilities, the best Christmas ever and … girls!

DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

AUTHOR NOTES: I tend to focus on how people relate to each other and deal with life's situations – how they cope and grow as human beings (you're warned).

Thanks to my beta reader: Lenore with the red pen!

Chapter One: The Muggle's Nephew

The skeletal form of Voldemort rose from the depths of the cauldron at the base of the grave. 'Robe me,' he ordered the bleeding, whimpering form that was Wormtail.

Those eyes, those horrible eyes glowing from that inhuman face bored into him, dripping evil.

'Crucio!' the thing screeched. The pain was like nothing he'd ever experienced. He'd seen Moody do this spell on a spider, heard Cedric's cries when Krum had put the spell on him, but none of that had prepared him for how much pain could be inflicted on the human body. A lifetime of hiding pain and fear shattered in the face of that curse.

He screamed then, in spite of his best efforts to hold it in. He screamed and screamed until he was sure he must lose his voice, or someone from the local village must hear and send help. But neither happened and he kept screaming until Voldemort lifted the curse, laughing…

'Wake-up you!' It took a moment (and a few good cuffs) before Harry Potter remembered that he wasn't on the ground in some distant graveyard, but in his bed on Privet Drive. 'Do you want to wake the entire neighbourhood?' demanded Harry's uncle, Vernon Dursley. 'Honestly boy,' he snarled. 'Your aunt and I have better things to do than wake you out of screaming fits every night!'

Harry groaned and sat up, reaching for his glasses to bring the room into focus.

'For your information, I have an important meeting in the morning that could mean a very lucrative deal for my company.' He leaned in close to Harry punctuating each word with a poke to his shoulder. 'And if I lose it because of lack of sleep, it'll be on you.'

'Oh that'll be nice for a change,' muttered Harry, rolling his eyes. 'Because you never blame me for anything around here.' It took Uncle Vernon only a moment to appreciate Harry's sarcasm before rewarding him for it with a large, hard, slap square across his face.

Through the stars now dancing in front of his eyes, Harry watched as his uncle stormed out of the room, locking the door.

'Miserable bastard.' He grumbled, getting out of bed. 'Damn,' he added quietly as he surveyed his now broken glasses on the floor. The bridge had snapped and one of the lenses had popped right out and skidded into the corner. Retrieving the pieces, he took a seat at his desk to make repairs.

'Brilliant Harry,' he muttered to himself as he peered through the lens. 'Now you'll have great scratches blocking your vision … but on the plus side, I think you really wounded him with your wit there.' He chuckled softly as he popped the lens back into the frame and began Spellotaping the two halves back together.

'And sitting up talking to yourself half the night and having nightmares the rest of the time…' He grimaced at his repair job. 'Yeah, this is just what you need to keep up if you want to convince everyone that Rita Skeeter was wrong when she said you were crazy.'

Rita Skeeter had written several stories about Harry during the last school year that had been as embarrassing as they had been untrue. In the end, Harry had learned to ignore her articles, as well as the ridicule they'd caused (mostly at the hands of the Slytherins) at school. Since Hermione had found out that Rita was an unregistered – and therefore illegal – animagus and had threatened to expose her unless she stopped writing for a year, Harry hoped that the wizard papers had lost interest in him for the time being.

His glasses now as intact as he would be able to make them without magic, and knowing that it'd be a while before he would be able to fall sleep again, Harry decided to respond to the latest letters he'd received from Ron and Hermione. He was dying to write to Sirius as well, if just to know he was safe, but Dumbledore had specifically told him not to. 'It's just too dangerous right now for you to be in contact Harry,' he'd said.

So, pulling out some parchment and a quill, he began writing as quietly as possible.

Ron,

Thank your mum for keeping asking if I can come stay with you at the Burrow. I sure hope Dumbledore will let me come soon – I guess we do have to trust that he knows best, right?

No, my scar hasn't been hurting and I suppose that must be good. I just wish I knew what was going on though. Hermione is sending me a subscription card for the 'Daily Prophet' so I can at least keep up with the news.

You'll find it disgusting, but to keep my mind off things I actually had Hermione send me a bunch of her books to read. ~Really, there's nothing else to do here. Dumbledore made me promise not to go far from the house, I've already read everything here, TV is boring (Dudley won't share anyway), and the Dursleys won't let me join the local library. I was going out of my head!

The most frightening thing is that some of the books she sent were quite interesting once I got into them. I've even learned some brilliant new charms I can't wait to try out when I get back to school.

Well, say hi to everyone for me.

Harry

P.S. There's a letter for Hermione attached as well – Hedwig already knows to go on to her next.

And,

Dear Hermione,

Thanks for the last load of books. I'll send them back with Hedwig when she's not making stops (she delivered to Ron before you). Did you charm them to be feather light while school was still in? I mean surely you didn't break rules and do magic during the holidays?! (Ha Ha).

Seriously though, I have to admit I actually liked some of them. I'm even thinking of taking Arithmancy next term! If you can spare any more books, I'd love to read them.

My scar hasn't been hurting (Ron asked too) and I really hope that's a good sign. I also haven't heard from Sirius yet and I'm getting a little worried. –You would tell me if the 'Daily Prophet' reported him caught wouldn't you? Because I'd want to know – no matter what.

I just hope he's OK.

Nothing new here really. Dudley actually lost a few pounds and promptly celebrated by eating a pint of ice cream… He's got to go to a diet specialist tomorrow.

Take care,

-Harry.

Hedwig flew in the open window with a dead mouse dangling from her beak just as Harry finished the second letter. He stroked her feathers and praised her hunting prowess for a minute before tying one letter to each leg. 'First Ron and then Hermione ok?' She hooted softly, and nipped his ear affectionately as he carried her to the window and watched her fly off.

The luminous alarm clock next to his bed flashed 4:03AM. Yawning, Harry took off his scratched, taped glasses and laid back down – perhaps not surprisingly in his weary state, he fell asleep almost instantly and just as quickly into some brand-new horrible dreams.

Cedric was there, and his parents, Bertha Jorkins, an old muggle… The same shades who had spoken to him in that graveyard… Only in the dream they weren't encouraging him or telling him what to do … no, in the dream they all walked past him – It's your fault we're dead … He tried to tell them he was sorry, but found he couldn't speak. Then Hermione, Dumbledore, Sirius, Lupin, Ron and all the other Weasleys were there – he even thought he saw the Dursleys in the crowd of faces that surrounded him now. It was Ron who stepped forward to speak to him finally - Who's next Harry? he asked Who of us are you going to kill next?

Harry sat bolt upright in bed, drenched in sweat and shaking uncontrollably. 'I didn't!' he whispered brushing tears away from his eyes and punching his pillow violently I couldn't. A boiling hatred was stirring in Harry's gut such as he'd never felt before, Wormtail! He thought savagely, Wormtail who had betrayed his parents, framed Sirius, murdered Cedric and brought Voldemort back… His last thoughts before drifting off again were of vengeance: If it's the last thing I do, he swore to himself I'll get that rat.

************

'Up! Get up!' screeched Aunt Petunia 'You've missed breakfast. You'll have to see if Mrs. Figg will give you anything.'

Unwillingly Harry was pulled into wakefulness by his aunt's voice. 'Wha-?' he asked groggily, trying to sit up 'Mrs Figg? Is she coming over for breakfast?'

'Don't be stupid,' she snapped 'Your uncle is at work and I have to take Dudley to the specialist.' When Dudley had come home for the summer holidays, it had been with a note from his school saying that for health reasons he would have to see a 'nutrition' specialist before he would be allowed to return for the next term. Aunt Petunia had wailed and wailed that Dudley was just 'stocky' and she didn't need some 'specialist' to tell her how to feed her own son, but the school had left them no choice if Dudley was to return to school in the fall.

'I'm not about to be burdened with you in London all day, and you're certainly not staying here alone. SO GET UP BEFORE YOU MAKE ME LATE!' she fairly screamed. 'You're going to Mrs. Figg's for the day.'

'But I'm nearly 15!' said Harry indignantly, putting on his glasses and getting out of bed. 'I'm not going to a baby-sitter!'

'You'll bloody well do as you're told – or else!' she threatened.

'Fine – 'he snarled back at her. 'Fine. It's better than hanging around this lousy mausoleum all day anyway.'

'That mouth will get you walking funny for a few days if you're not careful…' she replied dangerously, her eyes angry slits as she closed the door.

Actually, if it were possible, Mrs. Figg's house was even more of a mausoleum than the Dursley's. But Harry hated being treated like some six year-old with a box of matches. Angrily, he threw on some clothes, rolled up the sleeves and legs, and stomped downstairs. Aunt Petunia hadn't lied. Breakfast was already cleaned up and she was ushering a protesting Dudley out the door. 'Hurry up,' she snapped at Harry as she passed him.

No one said a word as Harry got out of the car at Mrs. Figgs house and slammed the door. His aunt drove away before he'd had even reached the front walk.

With an effort, Harry pushed his dark mood aside as Mrs. Figg rushed down the walk to meet him and cheerfully usher him inside – after all, it wasn't her fault how his aunt treated him. 'Hello Mrs. Figg.' He smiled warmly at her. 'How are y—' he began, but stopped as he saw a great black dog bounding up to him. The canine leapt up, placing its forepaws on his shoulders and transformed before his eyes into his godfather.

'Harry it's alright.' Sirius smiled at his shocked expression. 'When your aunt called her about taking you, Arabella contacted me immediately so I could see you.'

'Sirius?!' stammered Harry. 'But how?! … who?! … Arabella?!' And suddenly a memory clicked in Harry's mind. Turning to Mrs. Figg he asked, 'You're Arabella Figg?!'

'Guilty.' She smiled.

'The one Prof. Dumbledore …?'

'None other.' She smiled again at Harry's shocked expression. 'Some tea I think, and cake.' She winked as she bustled off to the kitchen.

'Mrs. Figg!?' muttered Harry in shock. When Prof. Dumbledore had told Sirius to alert the old crowd, including one Arabella Figg, it hadn't even occurred to Harry that he meant his old neighbour Mrs. Figg. 'All this time …'

'Harry,' smiled Sirius, taking a good look at him. 'How are you? Holding up?'

Harry brought his attention back to his godfather. 'Yes. Fine,' he answered almost defiantly. Sirius looked at him appraisingly. 'Been a bit worried about you though…' he admitted.

'I am sorry Harry,' said Sirius, leading him to the couch to sit. 'I wanted to contact you sooner but there are so many wards and protections around your house it'd be too dangerous. And,' he scowled. 'Dumbledore reckons Fudge is monitoring your post so I didn't dare owl you.' Harry knew there were protections around the Dursley's house – Voldemort had told him so when he'd had Harry in the graveyard.

'Reading my post?' he frowned. 'What, to catch you? Or because he thinks I'm mental? Is that legal?' He looked up at Sirius. 'I can't believe that Hedwig would let Fudge read my post.' If Hedwig wasn't even safe from giving away his private letters …

'She wouldn't even know they were being intercepted, Harry. It's a charm on the outer edges of the wards around your house.' He sounded disgusted 'It reads the letters carried in and out without even touching them. A 'quick-quotes' quill records the words as the owl passes, none the wiser.' He sighed as Mrs. Figg brought out the tea and joined them.

'Thanks, Arabella.' He smiled warmly at her as she poured out the tea. 'I can't thank you enough for contacting me and letting me see him.'

'Oh hush dear,' she said quickly, offering the sugar. 'It's the least I could do.' She handed Harry rather a large piece of cake, her eyes bright.

'Thank you,' said Harry, taking the plate and diving in hungrily. Shocked and glad as he was to see Sirius, he had missed breakfast. 'It's quite good Mrs. Figg,' he offered finally, not sure what to do about her misty eyes.

'Thank you, dear' Mrs. Figg blushed, smiling. 'You are sweet.' After a moment she seemed to collect herself and smiled at Sirius too.

It was indeed very good cake, much better than the stale cake she'd given him the last time he'd been left here, just before he'd found out he was a wizard.

Harry could feel Sirius' eyes on him and he knew his godfather was waiting for him to speak, but in actual fact, Harry was stewing over the news that his private post wasn't so private after all … and the more he thought about it, the more annoyed he felt – no, scratch that, thought Harry, he wasn't annoyed, he was angry.

'Sirius?' asked Harry finally, breaking the silence. 'How can Fudge be intercepting my letters? I mean what gives him the right?' Harry could hear anger rising in his voice. 'It's like I'm some kind of common criminal!' he steamed indignantly. 'It's not fair, I've done nothing wrong! It's not my fault…'

'Harry,' Sirius stopped him. 'It isn't fair and you haven't done anything to deserve this invasion of your privacy.' He sighed before continuing in an angry growl. 'Bloody Fudge! Arrogant ass wouldn't know what to do with a brain if he found one in his breakfast cereal…' Sirius went on in this vein for some time, his descriptions of Fudge's inadequacies getting increasingly vulgar and graphic.

As he listened, Harry could feel his anger slowly dissipating. He was impressed. Sirius had quite an imagination and Harry wondered briefly if Sirius'd known all of those words from before, of if he'd learned some of them in prison…

After a minute or two of this though, Mrs. Figg cleared her throat loudly. Blushing furiously, Sirius began stammering apologies, but Mrs. Figg stopped him with a smile.

'No really - I must applaud your use of *ahem* fascinating - if physiologically impossible imagery.' She winked at Sirius, grinning. If anything, he blushed more.

'I'm sorry,' he stammered again, looking down. 'Not used to being around people much.'

'It's alright,' she said softly and, in what shocked Harry as an oddly familiar gesture, she reached over and gently ruffled Sirius' already rumpled dark hair.

'Harry,' she turned to the younger wizard. 'As Minister of Magic, Fudge does have the right to implement the eavesdropping charm. Though,' she added, her eyes flashing, 'you are quite correct, it's usually reserved for criminals under investigation. I rather think you're right in thinking he's trying to get to Sirius.'

'Oh no!' Harry suddenly remembered the letters he'd written the previous night. 'Sirius, I just sent a letter to Hermione this morning!' He had gone quite pale and was shaking like a leaf. 'I mentioned your name! Fudge'll know we've been in contact!' He stood up nervously, looking around, half expecting ministry hit-wizards to storm the front door.

'It's alright Harry,' said Sirius jumping up as well and squeezing Harry's shoulder. 'Fudge knew before now that we'd been in contact – or suspected it.' He pushed Harry gently back down. 'I think he's sure you're still confounded.' Harry was quite visibly upset though, and Sirius sat next to him, rubbing his back gently for several minutes before Harry managed to stop shaking and regain some colour.

'I just don't want you to get caught because of me Sirius,' he croaked finally, looking up at his godfather.

Sirius smiled at him kindly, and reaching over, he copied Mrs. Figg's gesture and gently ruffled his hair. He opened his mouth, no doubt to say something reassuring but instead, he frowned, as if he'd just spotted something odd. 'What the hell happened to your glasses?'

'Er …' said Harry, surprised for a moment by the sudden change of subject. 'They fell.' Lying to Sirius made his stomach squirm – but the idea of telling the truth was just too embarrassing.

'I can't do magic to fix them in the holidays, so .. I …I had to mend them with Spellotape…' he finished lamely.

'Give us them, Harry,' said Mrs. Figg gently. Avoiding hers and Sirius' eyes, he handed them over silently. Harry was sure that Sirius knew he was lying and he hated the feeling it gave him inside. Sirius seemed not to know what to say though, so when Mrs. Figg handed his glasses back, he simply thanked her and turned back to Sirius as though nothing had happened.

'Do you know when Dumbledore'll let me leave the Dursleys – you know – to stay at the Burrow? Mrs. Weasley's invited me and Dumbledore said later in the summer…'

Sirius frowned at him for a moment longer, clearly not sure whether to press Harry about his glasses before he finally answered almost nervously: 'Ah … no, Harry. Not yet. You see, there's a lot to consider – not that we don't want you to go!' he added hastily. 'It's just that, well … there's a special charm see … very complicated magic really. Only Dumbledore knows exactly how it works… You see, when you're with the Dursley's…'

'I know,' Harry interrupted him. 'I know Voldemort can't touch me there, – he told me – Voldemort – he told me when …' he paused, trying to shake off the memories of terror, of Voldemort taunting him. '…When I was in that graveyard,' he finished.

Sirius gripped his shoulder tightly. 'I didn't know you knew about the charm Dumbledore used,' he whispered sadly. 'You didn't say he'd told you when you were telling us about what happened.'

'Didn't I?' Harry said quietly, looking at Sirius' pale face. 'I was in pretty poor shape at the time – I must've forgotten that part. Anyway,' he sighed. 'He didn't tell me anything about it really – just that Dumbledore'd invoked an ancient magic so that even he couldn't get to me as long as I'm in my relations care. Which, by the way, totally sucks,' Harry added, surprising even himself with the bitterness in his voice.

Sirius looked heartbroken and Harry immediately regretted complaining. He hated being forced to live with people who hated him and everything about him. Worse, he hated needing them to keep him safe, but he knew there was nothing Sirius could do about it, and it certainly wasn't his fault.

The silence spiralled horribly for what seemed like ages and Harry wished desperately that he could take back what he'd said – he didn't want a moment's frustration on his part to cause his godfather pain…

'Well Harry, I've got some good news for you.' At the sound of Mrs. Figg's voice, Harry and Sirius both jumped. Harry had been so lost in self pity and bad memories, he'd forgotten she was there. 'When your aunt comes to get you – well, when she calls to tell you to come home,' she corrected herself. The Dursleys never came to get him from Mrs. Figg's, they always just dropped him off then called when it was OK for him to walk back. 'I'll be asking to hire you for the summer,' she finished.

Harry goggled at her. 'For what?'

Mrs. Figg grinned mischievously, and Harry wondered at how strange his life was that he'd taken it in stride so easily that she wasn't the dottering old neighbour he'd always thought of, but a witch and friend of Sirius and Dumbledore. He smiled then, as he imagined Aunt Petunia's head exploding if she ever found out who she'd been leaving him with all these years.

'Well,' she said conspiratorially, interrupting Harry's imaginings 'I'll tell her that I'll be picking you up every morning to help me with my errands and gardening.' She winked 'But what I'll actually be doing is bringing you back here for some special defence against the dark arts lessons.' Harry stared at her, shocked.

'Arabella is an Auror Harry,' smiled Sirius. 'Retired for now – at least officially – but working for Dumbledore all these years as your neighbour. Now that Voldemort is back, I imagine she'll be busy helping him again.'

'Yes,' she nodded. 'Now Harry, you'll be learning some theory, of course, but mostly I'd like to focus on some shields and dark magic detection charms. You've got a good grounding in the basic curses, but there are more you should learn and practice…' Harry was listening with growing happiness, he could get out of the house - get away from the Dursleys… but then he remembered something that put a puncture in his bubble of joy, sending him crashing back to earth.

'Wait a minute,' he said, confused. 'Don't get me wrong, I'd really love to get out of that house, and I'd love to be able to practice charms and such … but … the law … I'm underage…'

'Oh don't worry about that.' Mrs. Figg waved him off. 'Dumbledore has given special permission – in fact, he insists you do the practical lessons. As for the law and the ministry, well – Dumbledore and I have worked a bit of a shield around this house that'll mask you. Mind,' she added pointing her finger at Harry in mock rebuke, 'it's only in this house you can do magic – so still no magic at home. I don't want you blowing up any more relatives, hear.' She winked, and Harry smiled, a great bird of happiness taking flight in his chest.

'You know,' he grinned in spite of himself, 'I'm not really related to Aunt Marge – not technically…' They all laughed then and Harry felt some tension leave his body – It was the first time he'd laughed since he'd gotten off the train from school.

Harry spent an enjoyable afternoon with Sirius and Mrs. Figg. They talked about the lessons he'd be having, Quidditch, and other things wizardly. Mrs. Figg did make them both look at dozens of pictures of her newest cats as well though – Auror and witch, or no, she was still obsessed with her cats.

Harry was very excited to find out that his old DADA teacher Remus Lupin would be teaching him sometimes, as would Sirius. He scowled though when Mrs. Figg told him that Snape would be spending a couple of days with him as well, but even Sirius insisted that Snape could be useful (Sirius grimaced when he said it though, like it caused him a lot of pain to force the words out). 'I don't like him either Harry, but Dumbledore trusts him and I don't think there's anyone who knows more about potions, dark or otherwise than that … -er- bugger,' he finished finally with a repressive look from Mrs. Figg.

They also worked out a system where Harry could write and receive letters without having them read by Fudge. He drafted new letters to Ron & Hermione explaining the situation: they would still send 'dummy' letters with Hedwig through the wards for Fudge to read, so he wouldn't get suspicious, but anything to do with Voldemort, Sirius, or anything secret would be sent through Mrs. Figg who would use Floo powder to send the messages from Diagon Alley.

Later, Harry held his breath while Mrs. Figg talked with Aunt Petunia on the phone, and actually 'whooped!' with joy when she hung up and said his aunt had agreed to let Harry work for her.

Against his protests, Mrs. Figg insisted on walking Harry home though. 'It's just too dangerous for you to be out alone right now,' she'd insisted, running upstairs to get her own invisibility cloak – she was much more agile and spry than she'd let on as her muggle alter-ego.

'I can't come with you Harry.' Sirius looked down at him sadly.

'Too bad my aunt won't let me keep a dog eh?' he laughed, trying unsuccessfully to cheer up his godfather. 'Hey, it's alright Sirius. We'll see each other here, right?'

'Yeah,' said Sirius gruffly and then to Harry's surprise, he pulled him into a bear hug. 'You be careful Harry.'

'And you!' Harry replied, his voice muffled in his godfather's robes.

****************

For the first time that summer Harry didn't dream about Voldemort, or Cedric, or dragons, or that terrible graveyard. In fact, when he woke the next morning the only dream he could remember having was one where he had been a great bird of happiness, soaring over the castle at Hogwarts with Hedwig.

*****************

Breakfast the next morning was a bleak affair though. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon were silent, and Dudley was sulking over the strict diet the specialist had put him on – Harry had to keep pinching his leg to keep from grinning like an idiot.

However, not even the thick layer of unfriendly tension in the Dursley's kitchen could put a dent in Harry's feelings of joy – in just a few minutes he'd be going to Mrs. Figg's house while Dudley would be starting an exercise regime - the appointment with the specialist hadn't gone well for Dudley.

He'd been put on an even stricter diet than last summer, and with the addition of the exercises, Dudley was absolutely beside himself. Harry had no illusions that his lessons with Mrs. Figg would be easy, but he was quite sure they'd be easier for him than physical activity would be for Dudley.

Being in such a good mood, Harry even risked teasing his large cousin when his aunt and uncle's backs were turned by dangling his bacon in front of Dudley's nose before stuffing it joyfully in his own mouth. The round boy turned a very ugly shade of purple, his piggy eyes glinting maliciously.

'Harry's being mean!' he wailed, managing to make his lower lip quiver. 'He keeps dangling his bacon in front of me because he knows I can't have any.' He even managed quite a realistic sounding sniffle.

Aunt Petunia glared at Harry and started to console her 'Poor little Diddums'. Harry opened his mouth to point out that he'd only done it once, but before he could say anything, he found himself sprawled on the floor with his chair knocked over on top of him.

His glasses were broken again.

He had to stifle a grin, though, as he got up and righted the chair and saw Dudley sniffling for real now. His father had smacked him as well (though not as hard as he'd hit Harry) and told him off: 'Don't be such a Nancy-boy Dudley – next time he does it smack him yourself instead of whining about it.'

Luckily for Harry, just then the bell rang, saving him from any further punishments. He joyfully picked up his broken glasses and winked at Dudley as he stuffed another piece of bacon in his mouth and fled to the front door.

********************

Mrs. Figg had heard from Prof. Dumbledore that Harry had been able to resist the Imperius curse and had insisted on testing him on it four times in a row before finally nodding her approval.

'Well, well,' she said, impressed 'Very interesting, very interesting indeed.' She then questioned Harry carefully on how he'd felt when he'd been put under the Imperius curse by the fake Moody, and the real Voldemort. Harry explained the floating sensation and the extra voice in his mind questioning the orders of the person doing the curse. He described how the voice grew stronger until it became his own voice and he could throw off the curse completely.

'Extraordinary,' she said finally after listening intently to every word. 'I don't think Dumbledore could've done it at your age.'

'Sorry?' asked Harry confused. 'Done what?'

'Well,' she answered slowly, as if she were searching for the right words 'Voldemort, evil as he is, still was, and is powerfully magical – not a match for Dumbledore of course, but not as outmatched as most.' She looked at Harry with an almost amazed respect. 'That you could throw off his Imperius curse so easily, at the tender age of 14, and injured, and after having already endured the Cruciatus curse – twice wasn't it?' Harry flinched remembering the pain, but he nodded. 'Well, Harry, that is amazing – and unprecedented. I'd be curious to see what you could do against the Imperius curse if Dumbledore put his full strength behind it.' She smiled again. 'That should be impossible to throw off – but …' she chuckled briefly, 'I should very much like to see you try!'

His extra training with Mrs. Figg, Lupin and Snape (Sirius hadn't been back since the first day) was harder than he could've imagined. For a little old lady fond of cats, Mrs. Figg was a gruelling taskmaster; and Lupin and Snape were toeing the line of hard work for Harry she'd established. He returned to Privet Dr. each day feeling exhausted and sweaty – and in no mood to listen to Dudley complain about his exercise regime. At least Dudley wasn't being hit with transfiguration and boil hexes over and over again to force him to get better at shield charms – unlike Dudley, however, Harry actually enjoyed the hard work.

Still, he was knackered, and the first break Harry had from the long days trying to deflect curses and the long nights doing homework came Friday afternoon, the end of the first week of his extra lessons. 'I need to take my cats in for a checkup,' explained Mrs. Figg, nodding her approval as Harry successfully identified the cursed object on a table filled with trinkets. 'Besides dear, you've earned an afternoon off.'

Harry would normally prefer to stay at Mrs. Figgs alone, watching paint dry than spend more time on Privet Drive, but today, the Dursley's were all going to be out of the house. Uncle Vernon, of course was at work, Aunt Petunia was at a ladies tea, and Dudley was supposed to be with his trainer at the recreation park – he'd have the place to himself, to relax and maybe even read in peace and quiet.

'Mind you do all your homework though,' teased Mrs. Figg jovially as Harry climbed out of her car in front of the Dursley's house. 'Or Remus and Severus will have your hide.'

'I promise,' Harry laughed back 'And good luck with the cats,' he called as she backed out of the drive.

It was a warm July day, and Harry quickly found his second story room too hot and stuffy. It was a risk, he thought … if he was caught, Uncle Vernon would murder him … but no one was due home before 5PM, and that was hours away. It would be nice and cool in the shade of the back garden – the perfect spot to relax and read.

'Sod it,' he thought. 'Why shouldn't I read where it's comfortable?' Still, he found himself on tiptoes as he made his way downstairs and out the back door with his book, Moste potente potions.

He hadn't been reading for half an hour though when he was startled by a hard poke to his shoulder. Involuntarily he jumped and cried out, dropping the book to the ground.

It was Dudley! Quick as he could, Harry snatched up his book – but too late – his large cousin had seen it.

'Dad'll kill you!' he said, taking a step back. 'You're not allowed to have that kind of book out of your room.'

'So,' said Harry, trying to sound braver than he felt. 'Go on and tell him then – I don't care.' And he really didn't at that moment. He clutched the book to his chest though – he didn't care what his uncle did to him – not really… but the book belonged to Hermione and he didn't want it destroyed.

'You bloody should!' he replied, a vicious glint in his eyes. 'You're going to get it – and serve you right – I hope he kicks you out!'

'Huh, so do I,' snapped Harry, as he turned and hurried back up to his room.

'Damn. Bugger. Bugger. Bugger. Bugger. Bugger ….' Harry swore over and over in his room. He was shaking more than he had done before facing the Hungarian Horntail last year at school. Why wasn't Dudley with his trainer? Had he skived off – and would his parents even care once he'd told them about Harry's school book? Probably not, Harry told himself angrily – the worst they'd likely do to Dudley would be to cut his pocket money - what they'd do to him though…

Quickly, he gathered up Hermione's books and hid them under his invisibility cloak in the corner. His own books he put in his school trunk, except for The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 3. If his uncle decided to tear up one of his books, this old one could be sacrificed.

Next, he opened Hedwig's cage and poked her awake. She hooted indignantly and glared at him with one beady eye, 'I'm sorry Hedwig,' he said apologetically as he tried to shoo her out 'I know it's early, but I've really done it this time – he's going to be in a rage and I don't want you in harms way.' She seemed to understand his good intentions and nipped affectionately at his finger before flying out the open window.

Waiting was agony, especially with Dudley hanging about outside his door chanting: 'You're gonna get it' over and over. He tried to ignore him; he even tried to read one of the muggle books left over from when the room had been Dudley's spare room, but it was no good. He knew he was in big trouble.

Finally, as the clock on his nightstand turned to 5:16 he heard the front door open and close. A second later, he heard Dudley's whining voice calling loudly down the hall: 'Da-ad, guess what Harry was doing!?'

With a sigh, Harry put his glasses carefully in his desk drawer and waited for the boom to fall.

***********************

'Stupid, Harry,' he muttered to himself later that evening as he crouched on the floor of his room mending the book, which his uncle had, indeed, torn to bits. 'Bloody reckless – did you check no one was here? No… stupid git … that'll have to do.' Tossing the repaired book aside, he prised open the loose floorboard under his bed and retrieved several chocolate frogs from the supply he kept stashed there.

The chocolate made him feel a little better almost instantly. He felt some of the tension leave his body – the soreness lessen as he stretched out his stiff muscles.

He didn't bother to check the door – even if it wasn't locked, it'd be suicide to leave his room while the Dursleys were still awake after this.

Harry glanced at the clock by his bed 7:20 – a bit early for bed he thought, and the chocolate had energised him some anyway.

He amused himself for a while by writing 'dummy' letters to Ron, Hermione and Ginny. The four of them had invented quite a lurid soap opera for Fudge's benefit where Harry was carrying on romances with both Ginny and Hermione, both behind Ron's back, who was, himself seeing Hermione.

'I really am a cad!' he chuckled quietly as he finished the last letter and set it aside with the others for Hedwig to take when she came back.

8:30 – better do my homework, he thought, not wanting Snape and Professor Lupin angry with him as well – so, listening very carefully for any footsteps in the hallway, he took out the parchment, quill and books he'd need to complete the work.

**************

The next morning found Harry dragging to get himself out of bed. 'Get up!' snapped his aunt through the door. 'You'll be late for Mrs. Figg.'

Harry looked at the clock: 8:42. With a groan, he told his aunt he was up. He crawled out of bed and tried to stretch out his aching muscles. He'd been up late last night finishing his homework for Snape and Lupin. They'd each given him a lot to do, and he'd found it very hard to concentrate when his stomach kept growling.

His stomach was protesting even louder this morning and his head was getting in on the action as well. As he rushed to get dressed, gather his homework and hide his wand he suddenly found himself quite dizzy, and had to sit down to stop the room spinning.

This wouldn't do at all for his lessons today, which he knew were to start with testing his shield charms. But knowing that Aunt Petunia's breakfast would already be cleared away and that nothing would have been set aside for him, he again reached for his highly useful hiding place under the bed and pulled out the last of the pasties Mrs. Weasley had sent him earlier in the week.

Finally, as satiated as he was going to get, he ran down the stairs. Uncle Vernon had already left for work (he always went in for a half-day on Saturday), and Aunt Petunia was just getting ready to leave with Dudley for his exercise session – neither of them looked at him as Harry brushed past them.

'If she sends you home early again today you'd better just consider carefully what you decide to do with that time,' his aunt said dangerously, walking past him as he sat stretching on the front step. He didn't answer her and ignored Dudley snickering nastily as they walked away. Once he was quite sure they were out of earshot though, he muttered quite a long stream of insults and curses under his breath until Mrs. Figg picked him up.

***********************

'Harry, you're distracted,' said Remus Lupin, crouching over him. Harry hadn't been quick enough to block the stunning spell and had had to be revived.

'Sorry Professor,' said Harry, sitting up and taking off his glasses to rub his head.

'Harry, a Death Eater won't revive you to give you a second chance – what is on your mind?'

'Huh,' Harry chuckled softly, 'these things…' He held up his glasses. 'I've fallen 50 feet from a broom, been attacked by a dragon, Death Eaters, Wormtail and Voldemort – and they don't break – you stun me – they don't break … but Uncle Vernon …' he chuckled nervously again. 'Every other day on Privet Drive they break – I wonder why that is?' he finished curiously. Professor Lupin was staring at him with a worried look on his face.

'Sorry,' Harry said, standing. 'You're right, I'm not concentrating, lets try it again.' He held his wand ready, but Lupin shook his head.

'No, Harry, I don't think we'll get anywhere with your mind so clearly elsewhere.' He motioned for Harry to sit on the couch. 'And we'd better clear your head before Severus gets here or he's likely to poison you.'

'I'm sorry,' repeated Harry sitting down and running his hands distractedly through his messy black hair. 'I'm sorry…'

'Harry, what is it?' Lupin asked, looking quite concerned now. 'You're upset about your glasses?'

'Ha – no,' he laughed hollowly. 'No, it's just I hate living there, you know … I just feel so isolated … from everything when I'm there.'

Harry had been on the verge of telling his professor how he had to hide everything he was there - how he couldn't say the name of his school, how he couldn't even say the word magic - or Hogwarts, or broomstick, or anything that had anything to do with who he was most of the year. How tired he was of pretending, how horrible he felt all the time … the nightmares, Cedric's death … It's my fault he thought bitterly, all my fault - I deserve it all…

But no, he couldn't - on Privet Drive he may have to be Harry 'Boy!' Potter, despised and afraid, but here he could be the Harry he was at school – a Harry who did well in most of his classes, had friends, and was even, occasionally – when the situation called for it … brave. Professor Lupin and his friends at Hogwarts knew very little about the Privet Drive Harry, and he wanted to keep it that way – as far as he was concerned, those two Harry's had never met. Standing up, he spoke to his professor again, 'But this is stupid – I shouldn't be on like this, It's not like it's new - can we get back to practicing my shield charms now?'

'Not today Potter.' Severus Snape stepped out of the fireplace, brushing soot off of his robes, 'My time is very valuable, and your time is now mine.'

'Severus,' said Prof. Lupin by way of greeting. He was still looking worried, but he didn't say anything more as Harry retrieved his homework for Prof. Snape.

'Lupin,' Snape replied icily 'I thought your specialty was defence, not 'cozy-chats'.' He smirked at his own joke.

'Hmm,' grunted Prof. Lupin in reply. 'Harry, be ready for a vigorous shield test on Monday, alright?'

'Yes, sir,' said Harry, handing his scroll to Prof. Snape. Lupin looked for a minute like he wanted to say something more, but seemed to think better of it when he spotted Mrs. Figg standing in the door to the kitchen.

'Potter!' Snape was saying, almost impressed. 'This is quite correct – how refreshing…'

In the kitchen, Mrs. Figg poured Lupin a cup of tea and sat down opposite him at the table.

'Something's bothering him – beyond the usual – even for him…' Remus noted. 'I just wish …'

'It's not in his nature, Remus,' she smiled warmly, patting his hand. 'After the way he's grown up, he doesn't know how to ask for help, or even understand, or trust help when it's offered.'

'He's letting us all help him with these extra lessons …'

'Oh, that's different dear,' she cut him off. 'First, it gets him out of that house – I think he'd wrestle a basilisk if it got him out of there every day. Plus, to him, this is just an extension of school really – not like asking for help. But,' she sighed reaching into the cupboard for some biscuits, 'I think the main reason he was willing to take these extra lessons was because Dumbledore and Sirius wanted him to.'

'Of course – Sirius!' he cried 'Maybe he'll talk to him.'

'We can't risk Sirius being here any more than absolutely necessary.'

'It is 'Bella,' said Remus earnestly. 'I don't think he's sleeping very well and he's distracted. Sure, it's probably all about what happened in that graveyard – but he needs to cope so he can move on, and focus.' He took her hand now. ' 'Bella, it's still preying on his mind – it's distracting him and it makes him vulnerable.' He looked at her desperately. 'Mostly though, it's the look in his eyes I'm worried about – 'Bella, James had that same look in his eyes sometimes – just after his folks …' He broke off, looking down at his untouched tea. 'He needs Sirius,' he finished finally, his voice breaking slightly

'I'm not sure he'll talk to Sirius either Remus.' She looked very sad and he wondered if she knew something he didn't.

'Auntie 'Bella …' he pleaded, giving her his best puppy-dog eyes – he knew exactly how to get to the old Auror.

'Alright!' she acquiesced finally. 'Bring Sirius on Monday – after you've tested Harry's shield. But I won't have either of you pressuring him to talk if he doesn't want to – he'll come around in his own time and we owe him that right.'

Knowing that there would be no point in arguing, Remus switched to a happier topic. 'Alright then – I've been thinking about Harry's birthday. What about inviting his Quidditch teammates?'

'Already have done …' she smiled, happy for a change of subject.

***************

'Sir,' asked Harry, as his potion simmered. Snape glared at him but Harry pushed on. 'Does Polyjuice potion work on muggles? Or the Imperius curse?' Snape was still glaring at him, though not quite as venomously.

'A muggle cannot be transformed with Polyjuice potion, nor can a witch or wizard use it to become a muggle,' he lectured. 'The potion can only react to the blood of a witch or wizard … they are, however, quite susceptible to the Imperius curse - when should you take that off the flame?' he added, nodding toward the cauldron.

'It'll start swirling counter clockwise, then turn clear,' Harry answered quickly. 'It should come off the flame just as it starts to go clear.' Knowing he had it right, he decided to plough on with his line of questioning. 'What's to stop someone cursing the Dursley's when they're away from the house?'

'Correct,' growled Snape. He met Harry's eyes briefly and looked almost sympathetic, 'There is a potion that works only on muggles – it keeps them impervious to charms and curses. Your family has been fed it secretly ever since you got there – which is why, every time you let loose with some unfocused magic as a child, you only affected things around them, and never them personally. Very good,' he added as Harry correctly timed the removal of the cauldron from the fire. 'Now tell me how it must be stored.' Harry quickly filed away the information about the potion the Dursley's were being fed and returned his attention to the potion at hand.

'Any potion not stored in airtight bottles after an hour will be spoiled. It's stored in small bottles as any exposure to air weakens its potency. The bottles must be stored away from direct light and heat. Also, Veritaserum increases in potency as it ages so it's a good idea to date the bottles…'

*******************

Come Sunday morning, Harry was very much looking forward to a long day of doing nothing – his plans, however, were dashed first thing by Dudley shouting loudly about his unsatisfactory breakfast. Figuring he may as well get up and get something to eat, now he was awake, Harry headed downstairs. But all thoughts of a lazy morning, evaporated quickly – the moment he set foot in the kitchen he was presented with a long list of chores to complete.

'And not a bite of lunch until you're done – we've left you too idle this summer so far and just look where it got you.'

Harry looked at his list morosely – it was quite long, and he'd be hard pressed to get it done by lunchtime. He set to it without complaint, though – feeling that he'd pushed his luck quite far enough recently with his aunt and uncle. It was a close call, but he just managed to finish his last chore on the list – make lunch – in time for the Dursleys to pile into the kitchen from a busy morning enjoying the sun in the back garden. At least they didn't say anything as he sat down to eat with them Harry thought.

He was just washing up the lunch dishes when he heard the front bell ring. He didn't pay much attention as he heard Uncle Vernon make his way to the door, but his angry snarl as he spoke to whoever was there carried over the sound of running water. Harry quickly shut off the tap and dried his hands knowing that somehow, this would be his fault. Maybe the Weasley's had sent another letter. He hoped his uncle didn't get too worked up; he didn't relish the idea of being in trouble with his enormous uncle again, so soon after Friday's incident.

'Boy! Get out here.' There were two boys living here, and both were in the kitchen at the moment, but when Vernon Dursley bellowed that command he only ever meant Harry. Dudley snickered viciously as Harry gave a resigned sigh and headed into the corridor.

The sight that met his eyes as he approached the door however, caused Harry's heart to leap into his throat. 'Professor Dumbledore!' he cried. A flurry of thoughts invaded his mind, the happiest being that the headmaster had come to take him back to Hogwarts early. Somewhat less appealing was the fear that he was here to tell Harry he was being expelled for having hexed Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle on the train. Worst of all – Sirius – had he been caught?

Some of what Harry was concerned about seemed to show on his face though as Dumbledore quickly reassured him. 'Alas,' he winked. 'No, Sirius Black has not been caught.'

Relief flooded over Harry. 'Then what…?' he began to ask, but was interrupted by an explosion in the form of his uncle, who seemed to be coming out of a temporary shock and regaining use of both his voice and body.

'Get away from my house!' he screamed at Dumbledore 'Your kind are not welcome here. Never come near my family again!' And with that, to Harry's horror he slammed the door in Dumbledore's face.

Harry could hear knocking from the other side of the door, but was distracted by his uncle grabbing him roughly by the shirt to lift him off the ground and against the wall. 'How dare you,' he snarled dangerously, spittle spraying Harry's face 'invite freaks like that to my house…'

'I didn't.' managed Harry, finding it difficult to breathe. 'That's my Headmaster – I don't know why he's here.' The insistent knocking stopped suddenly and Vernon dropped Harry in shock as a loud voice sounded from the open lounge window.

'Vernon Dursley, if you do not open your door and let me in, I shall blow it through the back of your house.'

Harry instantly recognised the dangerous tone in Dumbledore's voice and hoped his uncle wouldn't test him. But Uncle Vernon just stood there turning various shades of purple – so, not wanting to find out if the headmaster really would blow apart the Dursley's door, Harry opened it himself, not daring to look at his uncle.

When he opened the door however, he was shocked to notice that Dumbledore was not alone. 'You!!' he cried in disgust at the most unwelcome guest he'd ever received at the Dursley's since Aunt Marge: Draco Malfoy.