A/N: To clear up a bit of confusion, the timelines here are not in line with the actual timelines of Buffy/Harry Potter. The Harry Potter timeline is on course, while for the puposes of this story, this takes place after season 6 of Buffy. I'm pretending that season 7 never happened, because I'm the author and I can :)
This is an updated, *beta'd* version of chapters 1&2. I've made some important changes that I think add a lot to the story, give it more depth and all that. I'll be updating/addng chapter 10 sometime this week. Thanks to my beta's, Judy and Lexi, for being wonderful and helping to make my story better. Go maroons!
Chapter One: Prophecy Boy
"Well, just because she's Miss Save-The-World and everything, you have to make a big deal? I have to cook! And everything." -Cordelia, "Surprise"
The hot summer sun shone brightly down on the parched back garden of number 4, Privet Drive. The air was thick with humidity and miserably heavy, driving everyone indoors to escape the oppressive heat of July in Surrey. Only two people remained outdoors, sweating profusely as they greeted each other with hesitant smiles.
Harry Potter, a tall boy of sixteen, had the strained look of someone who had seen too much too soon in life. His skin shone with a sallow gauntness in the harsh summer sunlight, and his black hair hung duly in his eyes, eyes that had lost their spark and seemed deadened. He looked lost and scared to his companion, but mostly he looked sad, and with good reason--Harry had lost so many people in his short life, most recently his godfather only a month before.
Harry attempted a smile and gestured toward one of the stone benches in his Aunt Petunia's garden, benches which she only used in order to peek over next door's fence and spy on them. Aunt Petunia thrived on gossip and loved catching her neighbors doing things they shouldn't-he doubted whether the benches had ever been used to do anything else until now. "What are you doing here, Professor Lupin?" Harry asked, a quiver of fear running through his voice. It had been that way all summer for him. Every time he received a letter from his friends, or read the newspaper, threads of fear seemed to race through him, making him wonder if this was the letter that would inform him of yet another loss, another death. He swallowed convulsively at the thought. He couldn't bear more loss, not now.
After five years of training at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry was only two years away from being a fully trained wizard. Because of his past, and a prophecy that seemed destined to mark out his future, Harry wasn't an ordinary boy, or even an ordinary wizard. As an infant he'd been marked for death by one of the most powerful and terrible wizards of all time, Lord Voldemort, but had survived, the curse which should have killed him backfiring upon its originator. Only last year his protector and the Headmaster at Hogwarts, Professor Dumbledore, had told him why Voldemort had tried to kill him and the prophesy which had changed his whole life. Harry had been marked by Voldemort, literally marked with a distinctive lightening bolt scar on his forehead, and because of this, Harry was destined to either kill or be killed. Nothing else seemed important to him now, and it was because of this that he had a hard time paying attention to what his former Professor, Remus Lupin, had been telling him.
"What? I'm sorry. Can you say that again?" Harry shrugged apologetically.
Lupin gazed at him, concern shining in his eyes. "Dumbledore's sent me to check up on you, see how you're holding up," he repeated.
"Everyone's ok then?" Harry asked, relief surging through him.
"Yes, of course. We just wanted to make sure that you were ok." He gave Harry a hard stare, as if trying to penetrate the younger man's thoughts. "You haven't been writing to anyone, haven't talked to anyone about what happened. About… Sirius."
Harry felt a surge of anger rush through him and welcomed it, because anger obliterated the seemingly constant strain of fear running through him. "What do you know about it?" he spat, his face coloring a deep red in his anger. "You didn't… it wasn't… it wasn't your fault he died! You didn't nearly get all your friends killed by Voldemort because you're too stupid to listen to reason, because you were so sure you were right!" Harry was shouting now, and Lupin flinched visibly at the onslaught of his anger.
"Don't I?" he asked quietly, a flash of anger burning in his own eyes. "Everyday since Lily and James were killed, I've tortured myself for trusting the wrong man, blamed myself for their deaths. If I had only had more faith in Sirius… but I didn't, I thought Wormtail too weak to be a spy, too enthralled by all of us." He looked away from Harry, his eyes burning now with self hatred rather than anger. He took a deep breath, trying to calm himself. He looked into Harry's eyes again. "I loved him too, Harry. He was my best friend. I know just as well as you what its like to lose all the people around you."
Harry nodded, feeling guilty for his outburst at Lupin, for his unthinking comments. Of course Lupin would have blamed himself for his parents' deaths. "Its Voldemort," he whispered, his throat stinging with unshed tears. "If it weren't for him…"
Lupin nodded slowly, relieved that he'd gotten through to Harry, at least a little bit. "Listen Harry, I know you're hurting. I am too. And its because of that I think, and Dumbledore agrees, that you should return with me to the Burrow for the rest of the summer. You should be around the people who care about you. You've been with the Dursleys long enough, and we can protect you well enough at the Burrow."
Harry nodded slowly, and for the first time all summer, a feeling of relief and almost happiness flooded through him. He was going to the Burrow, he'd see the Weasleys and maybe even Hermione very soon, and most importantly he'd be back in the wizarding world, the world in which he belonged.
Lupin helped Harry lug his heavy trunk filled with various school books, his broom, and his wand, across the street to Mrs. Figg's house, while Harry carried Hedwig's, his owl's, cage. Hedwig hooted dolefully at a passing neighbor, Mr. Finch, walking his dog. Mr. Finch stared at the two of them as they passed and Harry sighed, knowing that he'd never hear the end of this little expedition from his aunt and uncle, who were in constant terror of respectable people discovering what they called his "abnormality." Since they were both gone for the day, however, Harry could safely escape without being yelled at. He wouldn't see them again until the next summer if he could help it, and he could only hope they'd forget about this brief lapse during the next nine months.
Mrs. Figg greeted them in her slippers and housecoat, waving a thin piece of parchment at them as they maneuvered around her cats, of which there were at least a dozen. "I've had a letter from Arthur, asking to use my fireplace. I suppose that's why you're here."
Harry had always thought Mrs. Figg to be just an average old cat lady, obsessed with her animals and a few cards short of a full deck. It was only last year that he'd discovered she was fully aware of the wizarding world, although she herself couldn't perform magic. She was a squib-a non-magic person born into a wizarding family. She was an important ally, however, and she was one of the people Dumbledore had set up to protect Harry as a child.
"Do you mind?" Lupin asked politely, huffing a little with the weight of the trunk. Never a strong man, Lupin looked older and more ragged than he ever had before, Harry noticed now for the first time. His werewolf transformations were physically exhausting, Harry knew, but Lupin had clearly been grieving as well. He looked almost as bad as Harry, and Harry cursed himself for not having noticed it before.
"Of course not, go right ahead. Mind you, its only recently been connected to the Floo Network, and the Ministry connector that was here seemed pretty dodgey to me. Took offense to poor Toodles when she brushed up against him for some petting!"
Harry smiled at Mrs. Figg's diatribe, the first sincere smile he'd had since leaving King's Cross at the beginning of the summer. "Harry, why don't you go first, and I'll follow with your trunk?" Lupin suggested.
Harry nodded, grasping Hedwig's cage tightly and taking a pinch of the green powder from beside Mrs. Figg's fireplace. "Thanks a lot, Mrs. Figg," he told the old woman, who glowed at the praise. "Give Toodles a pat for me, then." Grinning, he threw the powder into the fireplace, which burst into green flames. Stepping into the flames, he yelled out his destination, "The Burrow!" and held on tightly to Hedwig's cage.
Harry arrived at the Burrow coughing and covered in soot from Mrs. Figg's fireplace which, Harry thought grimly to himself, must not have been cleaned in several years. His best friend, Ron Weasley, sat at the kitchen table clearly awaiting his arrival. Harry grinned when he saw him. Although it had been only a month since they had parted at King's Cross, to Harry it had felt like years. It was refreshing just to see Ron's bright red hair and gangly form sprawled in the rough wooden chair before the fire.
"Harry!" he cried out, leaping up to take Hedwig's cage and give his friend a pat on the back. His voice, though filled with excitement, also contained a thread of worry. Harry sighed. It was clear that he'd have to explain himself at some point, or everyone, especially his friends, would continue asking him if he was all right.
"Where's everyone else?" Harry asked, moving away from the fireplace so Lupin could come through.
"They're, er, well its supposed to be a surprise really. Mum gathered everyone here to have a birthday party for you." Ron explained as Lupin appeared in the fire with a burst of green flame.
Harry turned angrily on his former Professor. "You brought me here for a party! That's what this was all about?"
Lupin sighed, letting Harry's trunk fall to the floor with a loud thud. His hand settled on Harry's shoulder, his eyes looking wearier than ever. "You're here because we care about you," he said again, giving Harry's shoulder a squeeze. Harry looked away from him, feeling guilty for his outburst. He just couldn't help thinking that while they were celebrating and going on with their lives, other people out there were dying and Voldemort was getting stronger.
Harry produced a weak smile. "C'mon then, mate!" Ron said dragging Harry toward the garden. "Everyone's waiting."
Harry, Ron, and Lupin left the kitchen through the doors that led to the garden to find a crowd of people outside, busily preparing for a party. It was clear that Harry had arrived sooner than expected. Mrs. Weasley, Ron's mother, was directing food of all kinds onto the long table with little flicks of her wand. There was all Harry's favorites, plus a huge chocolate cake burning with candles. "Weasley Wheezes Everlasting Flamers," Ron whispered to him, pointing toward the candles. "The joke is that, no matter how hard you try to blow them out, they just keep going."
Harry laughed. "Muggles have them!" he exclaimed.
Ron sniggered. "But do muggle candles shout insults at the person while he tries to blow them out?"
Harry shook his head. Everyone was so busy that no one had noticed them yet. Hermione, Harry's other best friend from Hogwarts, was stringing up a banner between two posts in the ground that read, "Happy Birthday, Harry!" She was balancing precariously on a step stool, while Ron's younger sister, Ginny, gave her directions from below. As both girls were still underage, they couldn't use magic during the holiday and were forced to complete their tasks the old fashioned muggle way.
Fred and George, Ron's older twin brothers, had no such qualms, having left school the year before. They were huddled behind a bush, using magic to unbalance Hermione's stool and make the banner fall down every time she finally got it up. Harry and Ron walked over to join them, while Professor Lupin approached Ron's dad to let him know they had arrived safely.
The twins saw Harry and Ron approaching and motioned them to crouch behind the bush with them. Harry grinned at them. Sometimes Fred and George were the only people who could make him laugh enough to forget all the terrible things that had happened recently. "Hello there, Harry," George said, grinning and holding out his hand for Harry to shake. "We're just having a bit of revenge on Hermione for all the trouble she gave us last year," he explained at Harry's questioning glance.
Harry laughed. Last year Hermione had been made a prefect and had taken her duties very seriously. Rather too seriously, as far as the twins were concerned. She had told them off several times for using first years to test their joke candies on, and the twins had been sore about it ever since.
"They've been doing stuff like this all day," Ron explained, grinning. "I'd say something, but I kind of like seeing Hermione taken down a peg or two." Silently Harry agreed. Although Hermione had loosened up quite a bit in the past year, she could still be a pain sometimes, always harping on them about getting their work done. He knew she meant well though, and was just trying to look out for her friends.
"C'mon," Harry pulled Ron up. "Let's go help her, at least."
They walked over to where Hermione was still busily trying to erect the banner. Ginny gave a smile of welcome and rolled her eyes at Hermione's efforts. "A little higher, Hermione," Harry directed her from below.
Hermione screeched and leaped off the bench, practically attacking Harry with what he supposed was a hug. "Oh, Harry! I'm so glad to see you!" She pulled away, looking him up and down critically. "You look awful! Your eyes are all bloodshot and your hair needs trimming and... Harry, how long has it been since you bathed?"
Harry colored, his pale cheeks turning bright red. Ginny cleared her throat. "I'll just go tell mum you're here then," she said, backing away from the others, trying to suppress her laughter. Harry was embarrassed. Hermione was right, he did look awful, and he hadn't really been trying to take care of himself at all. His aunt and uncle hadn't been too harsh with him this past summer, probably because his friends had threatened to come check up on him if he was being mistreated, and if there was one thing the Durselys couldn't stand in their house, it was wizards. He couldn't use the Dursleys as an excuse. Seeing the concern and worry in his friend's eyes now, Harry felt a surge of guilt for having been so careless. He'd been brooding and wallowing all summer, about Sirius mainly, but also about how everyone he cared about seemed to get hurt because they were friends with him. Now he realized that sometimes, he was the one hurting them.
He gave her a weak smile. "Maybe I'd better go wash up a bit before this party then, eh?" He glanced around, noticing for the first time that Mad-Eye Moody was there, talking to Mundungus Fletcher, and even Kingsley Shacklebolt, an auror with the Ministry and a member of the Order, had come to see him. All these people were there just to celebrate his birthday. Harry felt his throat tighten and looked away quickly, trying to clear his thoughts. "All right then, Ron?"
Ron shrugged. "Yeah, go ahead. This lot's so busy trying to make everything perfect, they'll never notice."
Harry hurried indoors to clean up, not wanting to see the same worried looks from Mrs. Weasley and the rest of his friends that Hermione had shot at him. He was giving his hair a good scrubbing in the kitchen sink when Ginny's voice penetrated his thoughts, making him jump and hit his head painfully on the faucet.
"Ooh, sorry Harry. I just wanted to talk to you without the others," she explained. Harry couldn't see her, as his eyes were filled with soap and water and his glasses lay on the counter next to the sink, but he nodded anyway. "Er, right," she said nervously. "I just wanted to say thanks." She paused a long while as Harry shook the water from his hair and put his glasses back on.
He frowned, looking down at her. "For what?" he asked, thinking that if anything, she should be cursing him. Ginny had been one of the people he had led into danger a month ago at the Ministry, nearly getting them all killed because he was foolish enough to believe his own dreams.
"Harry, you don't understand what that meant for me, and for Neville and Luna as well. We felt like we were a part of something, like we belonged to something bigger than ourselves. Like we were finally doing something." She flushed, looking away from him. "I just don't want you blaming yourself for anything to do with me. I chose to go, I had to go. You're not the only one who feels duty bound to help people!" she finished off, sounding a little angry.
Harry didn't know what to say. He knew she was right, that he hadn't forced any of them to go. That if he'd had his way, most of them would have stayed behind. But in the end he'd needed them-they'd never have gotten out of the Department of Mysteries alive without each other's help. "I should be the one thanking you," he said finally. "You and Neville and Luna. We'd have never gotten out without your help."
Ginny shifted uncomfortably. "Well, I think everyone's ready for you now. Why don't we go out to the garden." Harry nodded, starting toward the doors. "And Harry," Ginny added with a small smile. "Don't forget to act surprised."
The party was finally winding down after three hours of eating and talking, and Harry couldn't help but feel happy. For the first time since he'd left Hogwarts his stomach was full and he wasn't worrying about what terrible thing would happen next. Everyone he cared about was around him, with the exceptions of Hagrid and Dumbledore, who were undoubtedly too busy with work for the Order to be there. Harry didn't mind though. Now that he knew why Dumbledore had been so distant with him the past year, and how much pressure the old man must be under, he couldn't maintain his anger. Instead he felt the familiar sense of worry. Dumbledore was old, how old Harry couldn't even begin to guess, and they needed him to fight Voldemort. While the prophecy may have declared that he, Harry, was the only one with the power to destroy Voldemort, he knew too that Dumbledore was more important in other ways. He was the head of the Order, for one thing, and had significant pull in the wizarding world. If wizards were going to unite to fight Voldemort and his Death Eaters, Dumbledore would be the one to unite them.
Harry was shaken from his thoughts by the growl of Mad Eye Moody's voice beside him. "Potter," he said, taking the chair to Harry's right, "You don't seem to be enjoying yourself," he commented.
Harry shook his head, trying to avoid the stare of Moody's magical eye. "Er, its not that," he faltered, attempting to look happier. "I've just got a lot on my mind."
"I've been in this business a long time," Moody growled, taking a swig from his hip flask. "I've seen you fight, Potter, and you're the best for your age I've ever seen." Harry swallowed. Somehow whenever he talked to Mad Eye, he always came away feeling more worried than before. "You've a gift, Potter. Good instincts and a lot of power behind you. But that won't be enough to defeat him." Harry's startled gaze flew to meet Mad Eye's squinty real eye. Could the man possibly know about the prophesy? "I'm not saying its up to you," he added, and Harry relaxed. Somehow he didn't want everyone knowing his fate. "Constant vigilance!" he barked suddenly, making Harry jump.
"Er, right." Harry stood up quickly. "I think I'll go see what Ron and Hermione are up to."
He found his friends up on the third floor of the gangly house, in Ron's bedroom. Harry paused outside the door, shaking his head. He could hear Hermione shouting, and knew that she and Ron were having yet another row. "It can't hurt to at least ask him, Ron!" Hermione was saying, sounding angrier than Harry had ever heard her. "Don't you care about him at all? There's something wrong besides Sirius, isn't that obvious to you?"
Harry barely heard Ron's stammering reply. "Don't you accuse... of course I care! I just think, well, if he wants to say he will. Us badgering him about it won't do any good."
The room was silent for a few minutes. Just as Harry was about to open the door, Ron said quietly, "Don't cry, Hermione. We'll be back at Hogwarts soon, and then we'll all be safe." Harry heard the strain in Ron's voice and could tell he didn't know what to do with a crying Hermione.
He knocked gently on the door and walked in. Hermione was sobbing into Ron's pillow as Ron patted her awkwardly on the back, trying to comfort her. "Er," Harry began, feeling just as uncomfortable as Ron looked, and very guilty for being the cause of Hermione's tears. "I couldn't help but hear your, er, conversation," he continued lamely. He didn't know precisely what to say. He certainly didn't want to tell them about the prophesy, but he couldn't stand for Hermione to keep worrying about him like this. So instead he told a half truth.
"Hermione, its just that..." He took a deep breath. "I'm sorry I didn't answer your letters. I know you all were worried about me, but I just needed some time alone, to think, I guess. And," he let the air escape his lungs in a big whoosh, "I'm sick of putting people in danger all the time!" He could feel his own anger building, not at her or Ron, but at himself. "If I had listened to you for once, and not been so arrogant and convinced by myself, well, Sirius would still be alive! I put you all in danger, and I can't stand it that being friends with me means being very likely to die!"
"Oh, Harry!" Hermione cried, rushing to smother him in a hug. He could feel his own tears clog his throat. Lately it seemed he always felt like crying.
"Harry," Ron began, pacing up and down the small room. "Its like this mate. You're not getting rid of us anytime soon. Me or Hermione, and probably not the others that helped us that night. We're all in it together. V-Voldemort," Ron stammered over the name, "has affected all our lives, and we all want him destroyed. You can't stop us from fighting by your side mate, so stop trying."
Harry took a deep breath, nodding slowly. Ron had said almost the same thing Ginny had, and Harry knew they were both right. He would keep the secret of his true responsibilities quiet-they couldn't help him there. He gave his friends a weak smile. "Since I can't get rid of you then, who's up for a game of Quidditch?"