I own none of the characters or places that appear in my story, and I make no money off of this. In fact, I'm probably losing money since I'm writing this while at work.
1. Back to Grimmauld Place
Summers for Harry Potter were never enjoyable experiences, and this summer, the summer after his fifth year, was no exception. Harry went about his days mechanically, awakening each morning to prepare breakfast and perform his other chores. Once his morning chores were completed, Harry would spend the rest of the day in his bedroom, poring over homework assignments. The Dursleys, for the most part, left Harry alone. The Order members had given Uncle Vernon such a scare that they barely spoke to Harry.
For Harry, that same feeling of being separate from everyone else continued. He had always felt apart from everyone. Growing up, the other children ostracized him out of fear of incurring Dudley's wrath. When Harry found out he was a wizard, he felt different again, though in a good way, from the Muggles. When he got to school, he found that he was different even in the wizarding world, for he was the Boy-Who-Lived. But now, after the revelations of last spring, Harry was different once again. Knowing his destiny, to kill or be killed, separated himself from everyone else and gave him the burden of responsibility that no fifteen-year old should bear.
As Harry bent over his Potions homework, a soft, hesitant knock sounded on his door. "H-Harry? That man is here for you again," he heard his cousin stutter, then run away. Under any other circumstance, Harry would have found his cousin's fear amusing; now, it barely registered. Harry closed his book, marking his spot with a bit of parchment, and went downstairs. Professor Snape waited for him in the entranceway and acknowledged Harry as he approached.
"Potter. Ready?" he asked simply. Harry nodded and led Snape to his bedroom. As soon as Snape closed the door behind him, he pointed his wand at Harry. "Legilimens!" he said. But unlike the lessons in Snape's classroom, Harry did not relive a rush of painful and humiliating memories. Rather, only a few, innocuous memories flashed past his mind even as Snape strengthened his spell. After a few moments, Harry was able to push Snape away. "Very good, Potter," Snape said, almost begrudgingly as their lessons drew to a close. Harry smirked oddly at Snape, which produced a look of curiosity on the Potion Master's face. "We shall continue our lessons next week at Grimmauld Place."
"Grimmauld Place?" Harry asked, the barest hint of emotion in his voice.
"That's correct. Professor Dumbledore feels you have spent enough time here with the Muggles," Snape replied, practically spitting out the word Muggle. "This Saturday at noon you will be escorted to Grimmauld Place. Be sure to pack and be prepared; we have little time to waste on your dawdling." Harry nodded, not responding to the relatively light insults of his professor. Once Snape left the house, Harry allowed himself a small smile, the first in months. Not caused by the idea of returning to Grimmauld Place, but rather at what he was able to accomplish during the lesson without Snape's knowledge.
Resisting Snape's Legilimency attacks were much easier over the summer. Harry attributed it to the fact that he had much better control over his emotions; in fact, Harry doubted he had any emotions left. He supposed he should feel overwhelming grief and guilt over Sirius and almost getting his friends killed. Instead, he felt detached from the whole situation. Harry wondered if that was some sort of defense mechanism, or whether it was an effect of knowing the prophecy. He didn't really care though, because either way, it was much better than living through days and nights of guilt.
Neither was Harry's glimmer of happiness caused by his ability to resist Snape's attack. While Harry was practicing his skills of Occlumency, the flipside of that ability was Legilimency. Harry had performed Legilimency once before by accident at Hogwarts, somehow able to see Snape's memories during an Occlumency lesson. He had been quietly practicing Legilimency on his witless relatives, though he had been thoroughly bored by the ordinary memories that he saw in the feeble minds. Today, though, Harry had been able to view Snape's memories without his knowledge, while at the same time countering Snape's own attack. Harry figured his innate ability of Legilimency could be traced back to Voldemort, just as his "gift" of Parseltongue was unwittingly passed along.
Harry thought about his reaction to the idea of returning to Grimmauld Place. On one hand, it would be nice to see people he liked again. On the other hand, he would probably be reminded daily of Sirius in his ancestral home. And finally, Harry knew he would be bombarded with questions about how he was feeling; as well as looks of concern and pity. It was a bit too much to think about, all these conflicting emotions, so Harry simply returned to his room and began packing, having nothing else to do.
Harry patiently waited in his living room at noon on Saturday. His relatives had scampered off for lunch, not willing to be home when those people arrived. Harry idly wondered how his guards would arrive, and how many of them. A little after noon, there was a knock at the door. Harry looked at the door in bemusement before opening it. In previous years, Harry had been picked up via flying car, floo network, and a break-in. Knocking on a door seemed so…mundane for a bunch of wizards.
"Wotcher Harry!" Nymphadora Tonks greeted him cheerfully after Harry opened the door. Harry stood aside and gestured for them to enter. Tonks, Remus Lupin, and "Mad-Eye" Moody entered the house. Harry looked outside for a moment, surprised that additional guards hadn't been sent.
"That's it? No more?" he asked.
"That's it Potter," Moody replied. "At least, that's all you can see."
Harry nodded as Lupin walked over to him. He placed his hands on Harry's shoulders and looked at him in the eye. "How are you, Harry?"
Harry knew he would be hearing a lot of that over the next couple of days. Harry shrugged and replied, "OK." It was, after all, the truth. He knew they were probably expecting him to be either inconsolable from grief or extremely angry. Harry was neither of these things.
Remus didn't look convinced by his answer, but accepted it nonetheless. "Well, Ok Harry. Let's get your things and get a move on." Moody cast a spell on Harry's trunk, shrinking it. With Moody leading the way and Lupin and Tonks on either side, Harry left 4 Privet Drive. To Harry's surprise, they headed towards an unremarkable car parked in the driveway. "A car?" he asked.
Tonks nodded. "The Ministry graciously offered the use of a car after the events last spring. It's more secure and faster, plus a lot more comfortable then riding a broom," she said with a smile.
Harry only nodded in acknowledgement and climbed in, ignoring the concerned looks of that followed his every move. The ride was spent in silence.