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Less than a week had passed since Harry had left school for the summer. Harry was a wreck. He hadn't been able to sleep for more than two hours at a time before his nightmares woke him up. He couldn't stand the thought of eating anything other than the odd piece of slightly burnt toast and perhaps a glass of water. He hadn't showered since he arrived at number four, Privet Drive in Little Whinging, Surrey, and as the sun slowly rose in the morning sky, Harry knew today was going to be a bad day. Another bad day.

"HARRY POTTER!" Harry's uncle, Vernon Dursley, roared with anger. "Get down here and control this ruddy bird before he makes a mess in my kitchen.

Harry sighed, throwing a shirt on, he slowly made his way down the stairs towards his aunt and uncle's kitchen. Looking in he almost laughed at the scene, almost. Uncle Vernon was waving his arms in the air, trying to bat at an owl that was fluttering around the kitchen, a piece of parchment tied to its leg. Seeing Harry, the bird swooped down, landed on Harry's outstretched arm and presented its leg with the parchment to Harry. Harry untied the letter and put it in his pocket.

"Well boy, don't just stand there, send a response so those freaks don't show up again. It's bad enough they showed up last night, I don't want them to set foot in here ever again." Uncle Vernon did not appreciate Harry's friends and protectors. For that matter, Harry wasn't sure if he did either.

Harry isn't like most other boys about to turn sixteen. He doesn't attend a normal school. His Aunt and Uncle try to pretend that he is a juvenile delinquent and that he attends a school for incurably criminal boys. But, in fact, Harry attends Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry is a wizard, a famous one at that.

When Harry was just one year old, his parents were killed by the evil Dark wizard Lord Voldemort. A deadly spell of Voldemort's aimed at Harry backfired and destroyed Voldemort, leaving Harry with a very special scar in the shape of a lightning bolt on his forehead. Harry's mother sacrificed herself to protect Harry, imparting on him a powerful protection that prevented Voldemort from killing Harry. But unfortunately for Harry, and the rest of the world, Voldemort did not die, he just lost his body.

Twelve years later, under dark and mysterious circumstances Harry was captured by one of Voldemort's servants, the traitor Peter 'Wormtail' Pettigrew. Wormtail, one of the original Marauders with Harry's father, James Potter, Harry's godfather, Sirius Black, and Remus Lupin, former professor at Hogwarts, betrayed Harry's parents to Lord Voldemort and framed Sirius Black for his own murder.

Hiding for over a decade in his Animagus form, a rat, in the possession of the Weasleys, the closest thing to a family Harry had ever known, Wormtail helped restore Voldemort to power in Harry's fourth year at Hogwarts, using a Dark and powerful spell using Harry's own blood to provide Voldemort with a new body and greater powers than ever.

Over the last year Voldemort had been preparing his loyal followers, Death Eaters, and planning for his triumphant return to power in the wizarding world.

Unfortunately for him, Harry managed to thwart his plans once more. Voldemort had managed to lure Harry and his friends, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, Ginny Weasley, Luna Lovegood, and Neville Longbottom to the Ministry of Magic where Voldemort hoped to use Harry to obtain a prophecy about the two of them. Voldemort hadn't counted on the strength and determination of Harry and his followers, or the ineptness of his own vaunted Death Eaters. And Voldemort certainly hadn't counted on the interference of Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts.

Harry managed to destroy the prophecy, accidentally, preventing it from falling in the hands of the Dark Lord, but at a tremendous cost. During the battle at the Ministry, Harry's godfather, Sirius Black, was struck by Bellatrix Lestrange, escaped criminal from the wizard prison of Azkaban, and fell to his death through a secretive veil in the Department of Mysteries. This fact, that Sirius Black was dead, was the cause of Harry's depression this summer, and this fact was the reason his friends were so concerned about him.

When his Aunt and Uncle picked him up at the train station, they were confronted by Harry's friends. Vernon and Petunia were threatened and warned to take better care of Harry, but no one told Harry to take care of himself. If Harry didn't owl his friends at least once every three days, they promised to come and investigate. Harry didn't realize how serious they were until the fourth night of the summer break when he had forgotten to owl anyone.


BAM! BAM! BAM! The front door of number four, Privet Drive threatened to explode as if it were being bombarded by a battery of cannons.


"Open up this door Dursley. If you've hurt him I'll kill you on the spot!" The bellowing voice of Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody echoed through the neighborhood, which was fortunately quiet since it was three in the morning.

"Bloody hell, don't those freaks know what time it is? What is their problem? BOY! WAKE UP! BOY, GET OUT OF BED." Uncle Vernon's voice matched the volume and anger of Mad-Eye's, superceded only by the high pitched shrill of Aunt Petunia begging her husband to lower his voice. They scampered out of their bedroom down the hall towards the room their nephew stayed in when he was at their home.

"The neighbors, Vernon, think of the neighbors." Aunt Petunia whimpered as she grabbed her robe around her, curlers in her hair and a mask of some bluish cream covering her face.

Uncle Vernon threw open the door to Harry's bedroom to find his nephew staring out the window at the night sky. If Vernon had an ounce of compassion he would have noticed the fact that Harry's eyes were bloodshot and rimmed with the faint memory of all-too-recent tears. However, Vernon had no compassion for his orphaned nephew.

"Boy, get downstairs and tell those ruddy freaks that you are okay. Why haven't you been communicating with them in the first place? What's wrong with you?" Uncle Vernon shook with suppressed rage, clearly controlling himself from grabbing Harry and throwing him down the stairs.

Harry slowly turned to his Aunt and Uncle, as if just now noticing the commotion that was erupting around him. "Oh, sorry," he said in a decidedly hollow voice. "I'll talk with them."

Harry slowly shuffled down the stairs to the front door where he could hear Mad-Eye talking with others on the front stoop.

"I'm giving him another minute, then we'll blow down this door and turn them into toads. Dumbledore didn't say they had to stay human all summer. I'll just transfigure them into toads, put them in an aquarium and Harry can still be near his relatives." Mad-Eye seemed very eager to try this experiment when Harry opened up the front door a crack and poked his head out.

"I'm fine. Go away." With that Harry started to shut the front door, only to be stopped by Mad-Eye when he slammed his hand against the door.

"That's not enough Harry. We're coming in." Mad-Eye stormed in, followed by two people Harry immediately recognized, but couldn't say he was exactly thrilled to see. Remus Lupin, best friend of Harry's dead father and dead godfather, and Arthur Weasley, the father of Harry's friends Ron and Ginny Weasley.

"Hiya Harry," Arthur exclaimed with a bright smile. "How are the Muggles treating you? I wanted to use the fellytone to call you, but we didn't have your code or number-thingy. But you didn't owl us, so we had to check. Is everything okay?"

Harry looked at Arthur with something akin to dread, for the first time since meeting the affable man, Harry wished that he would stop talking. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Professor Lupin silently looking Harry up and down, and Harry knew that Lupin saw just how bad off Harry was. As Harry continued to look at Lupin, he was able to see that Lupin looked almost as bad as he felt. His robes, normally tattered, seemed even more dingy. His face was sallow, his hair matted to his head, and his eyes bore a haunted look. But despite the pain that Harry saw etched in Lupin's face, even worse from Harry's point of view, was the concern emanating from the man.

"I'm fine," Harry said hollowly. "It's late, I'm tired. I forgot to write, I'm sorry, I won't forget again. Please leave now I want to be alone."

Even the normally reserved ex-Auror seemed taken aback by the pain in Harry's voice. He bent over to whisper something to Mr. Weasley, something Harry couldn't hear, and Harry winced when he saw tears well up in Mr. Weasley's eyes.

"Look, please, just let me try to get back to sleep, I'll write a letter tomorrow, I just need to be alone now," Harry begged. "Can't you just let me be alone?"

"No Harry," sighed Remus, "you'll never be alone. But if you want us to leave, we'll leave. But if you ever want to talk, please know I'm here."

The anger, ever so close to the surface in Harry's head, erupted violently. "What do you want from me? It's my fault my father died. It's my fault Sirius died. If you get close, I'll find a way to get you killed as well. The only Marauder I seem to know how to keep alive is Wormtail."

With that Harry stormed up the stairs towards his bedroom and slammed the door shut. Tears pouring out of his eyes now, his breath coming in wracking sobs, Harry threw himself on his bed burying his face into his pillow as the pain tore him apart again.


Harry snapped out of his reverie, surprised to see that Aunt Petunia had already started making breakfast. He silently picked up the spatula to take over the cooking, and she silently rested her hand on his shoulder for a moment before moving to the table.

"Boy," snapped Uncle Vernon. "I don't want another interruption like last night ever again. From now on every morning you're going to write a ruddy note to those freaks and send it to them with one of those filthy birds, or there'll be hell to pay.

"Yes, Uncle Vernon. I'm sorry Uncle Vernon." Harry sighed. He just wanted to be left alone and no one seemed to understand that, but he knew the only way to keep people away from him right now was to accede to their easier demands.

Once breakfast was prepared he gave his Aunt and Uncle their eggs and bacon and cut up Dudley's grapefruit. Dudley still hadn't woken up yet, and Aunt Petunia seemed in no mood to try to wake her large child. Over the previous year Dudley's temper seemed to grow as much as he did and he refused to do anything his parents asked of him unless it involved a financial incentive.

Harry sat down, pulling his burnt toast apart when Aunt Petunia looked at him and sighed. "Why don't you eat some eggs or bacon? If you only eat toast you'll get sick and those people will blame us."

Harry was surprised that his Aunt seemed to speak with genuine concern, but shrugged her off anyway. "I'm fine," he replied. "I'm not really hungry."

Aunt Petunia seemed prepared to respond to that when Uncle Vernon glared at her and declared that it was time for Harry to get a job.

"You're almost sixteen and you need to develop some useful skills. You can either come to work with me or find something around the neighborhood, but you'll get a job and earn your keep."

"What's Dudley going to do?" Harry couldn't help himself, he had to goad his Uncle whenever given the opportunity. As always, Harry was satisfied because his Uncle started to splutter and get red in the face with indignation.

"Dudley? Work? Are you out of your bloody mind? He has to stay in shape for the school year, we can't have him lose his focus! He'll be a star pugilist if he keeps at it, not that you'd know anything about winning anything." Vernon snarled at Harry and stomped out of the kitchen.

"You know if you didn't provoke him, it might actually be quiet in the morning," Aunt Petunia said as she looked at her eggs. "I mean, really Harry, why do you insist on provoking him? It's best if you just leave it be."

Harry was stunned. His Aunt Petunia seemed to be talking to him civilly. He quickly glanced around the kitchen to see if someone else had entered the tiny kitchen when he wasn't looking.

"Stop that," Petunia snapped. "I know we don't talk often, but that Lupin person told me what happened to you. While I can't pretend to understand, or believe, half of what he said, I do understand that you lost someone very important to you. I know you are grieving. I know you need space. So I've found you a job to keep your Uncle happy and give you some time to yourself. You'll go work at the local park, cleaning the trails and clearing brush. You start today in an hour. Go get changed and I'll drive you there today, but after today you get there on your own."

Harry was not capable of responding. His Aunt seemed to show some compassion for him, for the first time in his memory she seemed to be a decent human being. He picked up his plate, placed it in the sink, and walked upstairs to change.

When he got into his bedroom he saw Hedwig sitting on the windowsill, a letter tied to her leg.

"Hiya girl, I'm sorry I haven't sent you anywhere, but the only person I want to write to, you can't reach." Hedwig nipped at Harry's fingers, rubbed her head on his hand and presented her leg to him. To Harry's surprise there was a letter tied to her leg. Harry reached for the letter and slowly opened it. It was a letter from Ginny.

Dear Harry,

Good morning. Hedwig showed up at the Burrow this morning and woke

me, much too early I'll have you know. At first I thought she had a

letter from you, but there was no note. When I started to stroke her

head she clamped her beak down on my hand and dragged me to my desk.

I sat down and she started pulling out parchment and a quill, so I

decided to humor her and write you a note. Your owl is very smart,

and very protective of you. You are lucky to have her.

Harry paused while reading the letter and looked with astonishment at his bird. She certainly was a great owl and he knew she was very smart. He continued to read the letter.

Things here are interesting, to say the least. Fred and George are making a killing at their joke shop, they've started to buy things for Mum and Dad to improve the Burrow. Nothing extravagant, but just some nice new things for once. Mum is constantly in tears telling me how proud she is of them and how she can't believe she didn't support them in their dreams. I think she's secretly glad they didn't join the Ministry, but won't ever admit to that. I know I am.

Charlie is transferring back to England. Charlie is bringing several of his dragons with him, and some of his dragon handlers. He won't tell me, but I think Dumbledore asked him to come back because he's worried about. Again, no one will tell their little baby sister. Sigh.

Last night at dinner Dad said that he, Moody, and Lupin were going to

check in on you since you haven't written. We're not worried yet,

it's only been four days. But you better be okay.

Ron is absolutely beside himself that you haven't written, but if you

tell him Hedwig came to me and not him I swear I'll hex you into next

week. Did you send her or did she come on her own?

Anyway, Harry I know how much pain you must be in. Please let someone

in, write back to me. Call Hermione. Write to Ron. Write to

someone. You need help and we are here for you when you are ready.

Well, Hedwig seems satisfied with the length of this letter because

now she's impatient to be off. I'll stop here and send her on her


With love,


Harry sighed. He didn't know what to say, didn't know what to feel. The only thought that ran through his mind was that he had to respond. Then he remembered that he had another letter in his pocket from the morning. He opened that up and as he looked at the familiar handwriting, anger welled up again. It was a letter from the Headmaster.

Dear Harry,

I understand that you do not want to hear from me right now, but I

cannot let that dissuade me from writing to you. I do hope you read

this letter.

Alastor informs me that he, Remus and Arthur made their late night

visit last night. I am pleased that you are unharmed, but I hope you

will avail yourself of communication with those who love you. Please

be sure to inform me if there is anything you need.

Unfortunately, I do have some business to attend to, and need your

assistance. I am asking this not as Headmaster or under the auspices

of the Order, but as an old wizard who has failed you in many ways.

Last year you admirably started a new club to subvert your classmates

to your cause and fight the injustices of the departed, but not

lamented, Ms. Umbridge. It was declared an illegal club. As

Headmaster I have lifted that designation, and hope that you will

consider forming that same club again this coming school year. I fear

that we will need to have a corps of trained individuals prepared to

do battle with Voldemort and his followers. As I learned from my

observations of your DA classes, you are a natural teacher and a

gifted leader. Whatever support you may need from the teachers, or

myself, will be provided. I do hope you will consider this request.

I would also like to inform you, with great pleasure, that your

lifetime ban on playing Quidditch has been lifted, and you will be

free to rejoin your House team this coming year, if you so desire.

Finally, we have some business to discuss, you and I, but alas I do

not feel comfortable doing it by owl post. If it is agreeable with

you, I will come to your Aunt and Uncle's house soon to discuss these

other matters.



Harry seethed with anger. There were so many implications and presumptions wrapped up in this letter that Harry wasn't even sure where to start being angry. He quickly grabbed a piece of parchment and scrawled a hasty note:


I don't know.

We'll see.

It is not agreeable, but when have you ever listened to what I wanted

in the first place?


Harry then decided to write to Ginny.


Thanks for the letter, I didn't know Hedwig left. I guess she knows

you can write better than Ron.

I'm fine.

I just need to be alone.



Harry wrapped up both letters and gave them to Hedwig. "Deliver Ginny's first, though I know she'll be unhappy with it. Then go to school. Don't wait for a response from him, he can use another owl. You are too good to deliver mail for him."

Sighing, Harry then changed clothes and made his way back downstairs to his Aunt Petunia. She silently gathered her things and walked him out to her car. Driving through town, she pulled in to the little park that had a small pond and tiny copse of trees where residents would walk through the woods to commune with nature.

As Harry stepped out of the car, his Aunt leaned over and gave him a bag. "You'll be looking for Mr. Smith, he's your boss. Here's your lunch, don't expect this every day, but you didn't have time to make it today. I'll see you tonight, I assume you can walk home from here?"

Harry silently nodded his assent and closed the door. His aunt slowly drove away, leaving Harry in silence as he pondered her newfound generosity. His reverie was interrupted by a large man who emerged from the woods, with an axe and a rake over his shoulders. For a moment he thought it was Hagrid, somehow shrunken to a more normal size, but quickly realized it must be his new boss, Mr. Smith.

"Are you the Potter boy? Mrs. Dursley told me you'd be by today." The man's voice was mildly curious and had the tenor of a man used to late nights of heavy drinking and smoking cigars. Harry nodded, and extended his hand. The man placed the axe in Harry's hand, surprising Harry who had expected a handshake.

"I want you to go about 50 yards into the woods and start chopping up the tree that fell during the last storm. Turn it in to firewood length and we'll give it to those who can't afford the proper amount of coal for the winter."

Harry turned toward the woods and started marching through them, heading towards what he hoped was the right direction. As he made his way forward, he saw the tree that had fallen and sighed. It was an immense tree and it was likely to take him days to chop up this tree.

Randomly picking a spot, he hefted the axe and started chopping. The axe made a satisfying crunch into the fallen tree, and Harry was able to concentrate solely on the heft and swing of the axe. All other depressing thoughts that had been overwhelming him for the past week slowly faded as he lifted the axe and let it fall, again and again.

Having lost track of time and place, Harry was startled when Mr. Smith approached him a few hours later, motioning with his hands to put the axe down.

"Good lord, boy, what are you doing? Don't you have any gloves?"

Harry looked down at his hands and saw blood weeping out of his palms, blisters having burst and been rubbed raw. Harry shrugged, barely registering the pain.

"No, my Aunt didn't give me any. I'm fine. Just leave me alone. I'll be okay."

Mr. Smith looked at him curiously and reached behind him, grabbing a pair of thick leather gloves.

"Here kid, use these, your hands will be a wreck if you don't wear gloves, and there's no way you'll be able to do anything tomorrow by the looks of it. Why don't you take a break and have your lunch. You've chopped up half the tree, something I though would take you a few days by the look of you. I guess you have a wiry strength."

Chuckling to himself, Mr. Smith turned to walk away but paused when Harry cleared his throat and sheepishly hung his head.

"I'm sorry sir, but is there somewhere I could clean up? I don't particularly relish the idea of eating like this."

"Oh, well, sure, how stupid of me. C'mon, I'll show you the loo and you can get washed up and find a drink."

Mr. Smith stomped ahead, now chuckling more heartily and chiding himself for being so stupid as to forget to point out the important things to Harry when he first showed up. "All work, I am, all work," he sighed.

As they got to the park center, Mr. Smith motioned Harry ahead to the loo. Harry went in to wash his hands, and as he ran the cold water over his hands, the pain from the open sores started to burn. Harry's eyes watered at the sensation, but he quickly finished and wrapped his palms in paper, when the blood quickly seeped through he added additional layers until he couldn't see the blood anymore.

Walking back put, Harry realized he was sore and hungry. Hungrier than he had been for days. He quickly sat down next to Mr. Smith and tore open the package his Aunt had given him that morning. Wincing at the contents, Harry resolutely lifted the sandwich to his mouth.

"What do you have there boy? That's no meal fit for a growing boy. Here, my wife always packs me two sandwiches in case I don't come home on time and need an early evening lift. I'm heading home on time tonight so I'll be fine. Go on, take it."

Reluctantly Harry accepted the sandwich, and slowly started eating. It was surprisingly good and in no time he had finished the entire sandwich, the most he'd eaten in the past week. Probably more than he'd eaten all week.

Sighing, Harry made to stand up when Mr. Smith placed a hand on his shoulder, gently pressing him back to his seat.

"What's your hurry boy?" Harry shrugged. "You don't have to get back to work just yet, you get at least a half hour break, if not more. It's a small park, there's not much to do, and besides it is a nice day, why don't you enjoy it a little. Sure looks like you could use some relaxing."

Harry sighed again but quietly sat, looking out across the park at the pond. He could hear children playing in the swings just beyond the pond. The sound of pure happiness seemed to hit Harry like a wave and just as quickly overwhelmed him. His eyes watering and hands trembling, he pushed himself up and in a quiet, shaking voice addressed Mr. Smith.

"If you don't mind I'd like to get back to work," and he silently walked away from the table back into the woods.

Reaching the fallen tree, Harry picked up the axe and started swinging it again. Before long he had entered another trance-like state and was able to forget the happy sounds of the children, and the pain that he was carrying around in his head.


The next morning his muscles protested as he climbed out of bed. His arms were tired from hefting the axe all day long, his hands stung with pain from the open sores, and his head pounded from the sensory overload of the morning sun. It was the sun that alerted Harry to the fact that something was different. He had slept through the night. The nightmares, if he had them, didn't wake him up. The nightmares that had prevented him from sleeping more than a few hours at a time since the night Sirius died, somehow were kept at bay. Harry almost wept at the thought that he had managed to sleep the night through, but then remembered why he hadn't been able to sleep in the first place, and this time he did weep. He cried bitter tears at the memory of his beloved godfather, dead because of him and his stupid, impulsive behavior. As the tears poured down his cheeks, he was startled out of his misery when he felt a hand softly rest on his shoulder.

"Harry," his Aunt Petunia sighed, "it will get better. I don't know how, I don't know when, but it will. You better get downstairs, you need to pack a lunch and get to work."

Bewildered by his aunt's behavior, Harry stumbled into the bathroom and quickly showered. The dirt and grime from yesterday's labors took a harsh scrubbing, but Harry felt somewhat refreshed when he walked downstairs.

"Boy," snarled Uncle Vernon, "where's your letter? I want to see it and then watch you send it."

Harry silently handed the letter to his uncle who quickly read it.

Whoever Hedwig brings this to:

I am fine. I want to be left alone.


"Well boy, it doesn't say much does it? But if it keeps those freaks from my home, I don't care what you say. Now send it and get to work."

Harry whistled and Hedwig came flying down to him. He tied the parchment to her leg and quietly whispered to her, "Here girl, take this to whoever needs it." He handed her an owl treat and she silently flew out the window.

Sitting down, Harry glanced up in surprise when his Aunt gave him a plate of eggs and bacon. He quickly devoured the meal, and got up to clean his plate when she whispered to him to remember to pack a lunch. Harry quickly made a sandwich and dashed out of the house.

Making his way to the park, he saw Mr. Smith lounging at the table, drinking a cup of coffee and reading the morning paper. Noticing Harry walking toward him, Mr. Smith got up, smiled at Harry and motioned him to the shack near the woods.

"I want you to finish that tree today, since you made short work of most of it yesterday. Then, after lunch, we'll walk the trails and I'll show you a few tricks of the trade."

Harry nodded his agreement, grabbed the gloves Mr. Smith had given him the day before and picked up the axe. Harry quietly turned and marched toward the woods. Reaching the remnants of the tree, Harry was amazed to see how much he had accomplished the day before. He understood now why he was so exhausted and why his arms ached. The pile of wood he had created was immense and most of the tree was already chopped. Shaking his head to himself he hefted the axe and started back in on his work. Happy to lose his mind to the repetition of the labor.

When he finished the tree and placed all the wood in a neat pile, Harry slowly walked out of the woods, looking for the first time at his surroundings. It was a clean and healthy wooded area. A nice variety of trees and underbrush, and the atmosphere was very peaceful. Sighing he emerged from the woods, blinking at the harsh glare of the sunlight on a perfectly clear day.

"Ah, there you are Potter, let's eat and then we'll take a walk. I do hope you brought a better sandwich today, I think my wife made my favorite so I'm less inclined to share." Mr. Smith chortled at this statement, and comfortably sat down at the small table. Harry pulled out his lunch, an improvement over the lunch his Aunt had made the day before, but certainly not as delicious as something a house elf could make. But it was filling and sufficed Harry quite well.

"You're a quiet one, aren't ya?" Mr. Smith asked with a smile. "That's fine, I talk enough for two, or three as my wife would like to say. Let's head to the trail and I'll show you my park."

For the rest of the afternoon, Mr. Smith and Harry walked through the small park, around the pond, and then through the woods. Mr. Smith talked all afternoon pointing out interesting plants, places where animals lived, paths that people preferred over others, and where teenage boys liked to take teenage girls.

"Now I normally chase them out of here, but if you want some privacy, well, you just let me know. I know how to make myself scarce." Mr. Smith laughed at the blush that crept up Harry's face. "Don't worry son, don't worry. I won't tease you if you have a certain someone you would like to entertain, Lord knows that's how the Missus and I got started." Chuckling, Mr. Smith placed a familiar hand on Harry's shoulder and squeezed it gently.

"You're so placid, a girl would do you well, loosen you up a bit. Maybe even make you smile." With that Harry did smile, and Mr. Smith howled with laughter again. "See boy, that'll always do the trick, a nice night, a nice girl. All your worries will melt away. Well, it is quitting time, we've spent more time walking the trails than I thought and I need to get home. You have a good night, I'll see you in the morning."

Harry nodded his farewell to Mr. Smith and started walking towards Privet Drive. Lost in his thoughts, he didn't realize how quickly he was getting there until he bumped into his Headmaster who was waiting for Harry in front of the Dursley house.

"Good evening Harry," said Professor Dumbledore, "how was your day at work?"

Glaring at him, Harry resented the intrusion. "I'm fine," he snapped. "Can't you leave me alone?"

Albus Dumbledore wearily sighed, "No Harry, unfortunately I cannot. We have much to discuss. Can I enter your home or should we go elsewhere?"

"My home is Hogwarts. My home is the Burrow. This is my prison and YOU have sentenced me here. So as my jailer, you can come or go as far as I know. Does your magic allow you to enter? You certainly have caused me enough harm, if your precious magic is supposed to protect me, then it should throw you out on your arse." Harry stomped past his Headmaster and stormed up into his room.

Dumbledore silently followed Harry, quietly closing the door to Harry's room and sat down at the small desk that was covered with parchment and books on curses, jinxes, and hexes.

"Interesting reading Harry. These are very advanced books."

"Well, you want your weapon in fine form, right?" Harry seethed. "After all I'm just a tool. I have to be sharp so you can throw me at your enemies."

For a second Harry saw Dumbledore's eyes glaze over with tears, and irrationally Harry felt a surge of happiness that he had cause the old man such pain.

"Now what do you want? I'm tired, I need to shower, and I need to read some more."

Dumbledore looked at Harry for a while, obviously contemplating what, or how, he was going to start. The conversation did not start the way he wanted and he was struggling for a way to regain his momentum.

"Well, Harry, as you know I have resumed my role as Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot. Thanks to you and your friends, and Alastor, Andromeda, Remus, Sirius and others, we have a few important trials to conduct. I have come to ask you to be a witness, but I will understand if you refuse. You are a minor and we cannot compel you to testify, nor should we if we were able. However your testimony would be crucial to a clear verdict and punishment."

Harry glared at Dumbledore, "Who?"

"Lucius Malfoy, and others that you helped capture. They are being tried for their crimes and I hope to complete this before the summer is over and I return my attention to Hogwarts. I am also reopening the case of your godfather, to prove his innocence so his name can be cleared"

"In case you forgot, it's too late for that. He's dead. I killed him. What does it matter if his name is cleared?"

"Harry," Albus sighed, "you bear no more responsibility for Sirius' death than you do for the rising of the sun. Voldemort manipulated you, I failed you, Professor Snape failed you, and the wizarding world failed you. Again. We have discussed this and I will continue to remind you of these facts as long as necessary.

"As to why I am clearing your godfather's name, it is simply because it is important to you. True, it serves no purpose for the fight against Voldemort, but it will allow you some sense of closure, some sense of right. And it might possibly make you happy. As I told you before I have strived to find things to make you happy. That I have failed in the past does not mean I will not continue to make these attempts."

Harry looked at the ancient wizard and felt the sadness and resolve emanating from him. Knowing that he was being unfair to the most powerful wizard alive, he coolly glared at him.

"Fine. I'll testify so those bastards rot in jail forever. I'll testify to clear Sirius, though you should have done this, oh I don't know, BEFORE HE DIED. Now leave, I want to be left alone."

Turning his back on his headmaster, Harry stared out the window, thinking of the night that led to Sirius's death. He heard Dumbledore sigh and slowly get up, silently closing the door as he left.

And Harry wept. He wept for himself, for being alone. He wept for Sirius, dead because of him. He wept and he wept. And he finally succumbed to sleep.


The next several days were very much the same. Each morning Uncle Vernon would demand to see a letter. Each morning Harry would present him with the same letter

I am fine. I want to be left alone.


Hedwig would deliver the message and Harry would go to the park and spend the day in demanding physical labor, exhausting himself physically and mentally so that he could collapse when he returned to Privet Drive.

His friends from school sent him letters. Every night he got a letter from Ron, Hermione, Luna, and Neville. He didn't read any of the letters. He wasn't prepared to open himself up to the pain that he knew each letter would cause. He sent them all the same response to each letter. "I'm fine. I need to be alone."

However, since he initially responded to Ginny he didn't get another letter from her. He supposed that was appropriate since his letter was less than friendly, but he tried not to give it another thought. He failed.


At the beginning of his third week in captivity, Harry started to wonder if Dumbledore would let him leave the Dursley's soon. If he was going to testify at the trials of Malfoy and the other Death Eaters, he certainly wasn't going to return here. He could stay at the Burrow, or get a room at the Leaky Cauldron or maybe stay in Hogsmeade, if Dumbledore wouldn't let him stay at Hogwartsthe castle, that is.

As Harry left his usual hard day at the park, he grinned as Mr. Smith drove by in his car.

"See ya tomorrow Harry!"

"Good night sir." Harry watched the car speed away, glad that it was another exhausting day.

"How touching," a whiny voice snarled from the shadows. "Potter has manners."

Harry whirled around, glaring into a shaded area.

"Who's there," he demanded while reaching for his wand. Harry was reassured when his hand grasped the slick wood he kept within easy reach.

"Show yourself now!"

"Temper, temper, Potter. My Master has a message for you." With that statement Harry gasped as he saw Peter Pettigrew slink out from the shadows.

"How do you know where I am?" asked Harry, who was starting to worry if this was a feint for a larger attack of more Death Eaters or if it was just Wormtail alone.

"You forget that I was friends with your parents. I knew your mother had a sister, and I knew that she got married. It was easy to track you down. My Master has a message for you."

"You already said that rat, get on with it before I decide to practice what spell I am going to use to kill your Master."

"Brave words, Harry, but you know my Master cannot be defeated. My Master wants to let you know that he knows where you live, he knows about your precious prophecy, and he is eager for your death."

"That's it? Pretty pointless message he sent, traitor." Harry was shaking with rage. "Your master is a liar, a phony, a fool, and powerless against me. He can try to run, but he can not avoid the truth. He is wrong, and he is doomed. We both know it."

"Well, there's one other message," snarled Pettigrew raising his wand. "Crucio!" He shouted. The spell shot out of his wand racing towards Harry. Harry flinched and tensed up, but the expected agony never reached him. A soft white glow enveloped Harry, and Harry was aware of a soft murmuring of comforting voices, and the scent of a fresh spring rain. There was a bright flash where the curse Wormtail had thrown at him hit the white nimbus, and with a loud snap the red beam was deflected straight back at the traitor.

Pettigrew flinched as the curse hit him and he screamed in agony. His body flopped to the ground and Harry could see the lines of pain stream across his face, Pettigrew's body contorting and writhing in agony.

Two loud cracks, the sound of two wizards Apparating came from behind Harry. Harry tensed, threw himself to the ground and pointed his wand behind him, shouting "Stupefy" as he fell. He heard a man grunt with pain as Harry's spell hit him and a loud thud as the body fell to the ground. Harry rolled around, preparing to take aim when he heard the commanding voice of Professor Dumbledore.

"Harry, stop. You are safe. Get up and come over here."

Harry turned, saw the Headmaster, and silently obeyed. As he walked towards the Headmaster, he glared in to his eyes.

"How can you say I'm safe?" He demanded. "Voldemort knows where I am, we've put my Aunt in danger and I'm no longer safe."

"I disagree," Dumbledore said mildly. "Turn around."

Harry angrily glanced behind him and saw Pettigrew still writhing on the ground, caught in the clutches of the Cruciatus Curse, his breath coming in agonized gasps, his arms and legs bent in excruciating angles as pain ripped through his body.

"What's happening to him, Professor? That's not a normal curse. He couldn't have that much power."

"Harry, this is the protection your mother so desperately paid for. Any offensive spell cast against you rebounds to the caster and the effects are multiplied. Only you can release the spell faster, if you choose. All you have to do is cast the Finite Incantatem spell."

Mad-Eye groaned from the ground, he was the second wizard who had arrived with Dumbledore, the one Harry had stunned. "With Pettigrew in custody, it will be easier to clear Sirius, Harry. It might be a good idea to release him before his brain turns even mushier than it already is."

Begrudgingly Harry cast the spell, and was somewhat relieved to see the contortions of Wormtail's body subside. Dumbledore quickly cast several spells over Wormtail, to prevent his escape, and put a port key on his hands. Within seconds Pettigrew disappeared.

"I have sent him to Azkaban pending his trial," said Dumbledore. "Fortunately I was able to force to removal of the Dementors from that island, and it is a safe prison again."

Mad-Eye got up from the ground, giving Harry an appreciative look as he dusted himself off, "Good instincts there, Potter. Good instincts. Nice stunner."

Harry gave him a small smile before turning to Dumbledore. "And what's your excuse for not telling me about this? Was I bait, again? Were you hoping it would be Voldemort?"

"Harry," sighed Dumbledore, "I know you are still angry me, but must every conversation we have be so hostile? I see it must." The great wizard sighed sadly before continuing.

"I didn't tell you about the specifics of the protection because I had hoped it would never be enacted. I didn't tell you how to end the reversal of the spell because I wouldn't have thought either you, or myself, would ever want to keep any of your attackers from harm. I assumed that any fool Voldemort convinced to attack you while you were in your Aunt's care would deserve the agony caused by your mother's protection."

Dumbledore paused while taking in the shocked expression on Harry's face. He smiled slightly and chuckled before continuing.

"Oh yes Harry, the wise and mighty Dumbledore also has a bit of a cruel streak. I knew about the rebound effect of your mother's protection, and I knew that whoever dared to cause you harm would be so deserving of the agony, so deserving of the retribution, that I neglected to inform you of it. Plus I also knew that I would arrive immediately after the protection was activated, so I could inform you of this option if necessary.

"I have no regret that Voldemort sent Peter to test the power of this protection. I only wish it had come at a different time. Were it not for the need of Peter's testimony, I would have gladly let him sit in agony until the spell wore off. After the betrayal of your parents, the framing of Sirius, the harm he caused the Weasley family, and his role in restoring Voldemort to a body, I find myself empty of sympathy for Peter today. Most importantly, he has caused you too much pain, too much anguish, for me to feel anything but contempt for his choices. There would be a savage justice in letting him stew in a spell of his own making."

Stunned, Harry didn't know how to react to his Headmaster's bloodthirsty smile. He quietly looked from Dumbledore to Moody, uncertain of what to say next, when Moody barked a laugh and grabbed Harry's shoulder.

"Harry, we were not anticipating this, nor did we know Pettigrew knew of your location. If we had, you would have been informed. You have earned that right. Unfortunately Dumbledore and I were together because we have been summoned, as have you. I'm sure your owl will show up soon with the proper documentation."

As if summoned by his words, Hedwig appeared, gently dropping a large document in Harry's hands. Curiously Harry unrolled the parchment, not recognizing the handwriting.

Law Offices of Dewey, Chetum, and Howe

Attorneys, Advocates, and Rapscallions at large

Harry James Potter

Number Four, Privet Drive

Little Whinging, Surrey


Dear Mr. Potter:

You have been identified as the primary beneficiary of the last will

and testament of Sirius Black. We are responsible for certifying the

distribution of his assets and properties.

Mr. Black specified that his will be read at the first rise of a new

moon after his death. According to our lunar calendar that event will

occur this evening. Therefore your presence is formally requested at

12 Grimmauld Place at 10 p.m. this evening. Should you not attend,

your claim to the Black Estate will be forfeit and those bequests in

your name will be distributed to Mr. Black's other heirs.


I. Preferta Chetum

Attorney at law

Tears welled in Harry's eyes as he realized the implication of what this letter was saying. Although he knew it to be true, now he was officially being notified of Sirius's death. The pain that had so successfully been beaten back by days of hard labor and dreamless nights came rushing back with an intensity that scared Harry, shaking him to his core. And in less than 3 hours he was going to have to sit through a legal pronouncement declaring him to be an orphan once more.

"Sirius is dead, and it's all my fault," Harry whispered to himself. Clearing his throat, he blinked the tears from his eyes and glared up at Professor Dumbledore. "Am I allowed to go to this or do I have to stay here for my safety?"

"No Harry, we will all go to this together. While I am still concerned for your safety, this is an important event for you. And when this night is through, you and I will need to talk. With Peter imprisoned, I'm afraid Voldemort will attempt to link to your mind again, sooner than I would have hoped. We will need to start your Occlumency training again. But that can wait until after tonight."

With a heavy sigh Dumbledore pulled out a long feather from his robe. It reminded Harry of Fawkes, Dumbledore's phoenix. "This is a port key to 12 Grimmauld Place, Harry. We will use it together to travel there tonight. Do you want to leave now, or perhaps we should inform your Aunt of your whereabouts so she doesn't worry?"

"Whatever, she won't worry," mumbled Harry, lost in his own thoughts and private pain. Moody grumbled and stomped off to the Dursley residence. Minutes later he came back grumbling about ill-mannered Muggles, but stopped when Dumbledore shot him a dark look.

"Alright then, let's grab hold and we'll be off."

Harry touched the feather, feeling the warmth he associated with Fawkes, and suddenly the quiet joy of Fawkes' song played through Harry's head. Suddenly the jerk at the navel that Harry always felt when travelling by port key pulled at Harry, and he found himself whisked away from Little Whinging.


Harry, Dumbledore, and Moody arrived at the landing of 12 Grimmauld Place with a silent thud. Dumbledore opened the door and Harry and Moody followed him in past the entry to the large common room.

Harry was startled to see a crowd already there, chagrined to see it was the people he considered to be his family.

The crowd grew quiet and turned as one to look at Harry, Dumbledore, and Moody. The startled expressions on their faces showed Harry that he was not expected this early, and he could sense the tension in the air.

"Harry!" exclaimed his best friend Hermione Granger as she ran toward him, almost knocking him over as she grabbed him in a hug. "We've been so worried. Your notes have been just awful, how could you shut us out like that? Mr. Weasley says that you look terrible, and I have to say that he's right. Are you okay? I mean, of course you are not okay, just look at you."

Hermione slowly stopped talking, realizing that Harry hadn't said a word or returned her hug. He was just standing there, his arms hanging limply, a hollow expression on his face. He wasn't even looking at her, he was looking at a picture of his godfather, Sirius, one that Mrs. Weasley had hung after Sirius had died.

"Bloody hell, mate, you look awful." Ron Weasley, Harry's other best friend, stepped up beside Hermione, his eyes darting between the two of them, sensing the tension from Hermione and the emptiness from Harry. Ron reached out to grab Harry's shoulder, but Harry flinched away, slowly making his way to the portrait of his godfather.

"I'm sorry we couldn't make it a normal portrait," Remus said as he stepped behind Harry. "But Sirius was already. . . gone when it was finished. He didn't cast the spell to place an imprint on the painting."

Remus also tried to place his hand on Harry's shoulder, but Harry flinched away. Looking at the dark corridor lined with the heads of house elves, Harry felt wave after wave of pain hit him.

He was in Sirius' house. Dumbledore imprisoned him here, like Harry was imprisoned at the Dursley's. Kreacher was here, somewhere. Kreacher who caused so much pain, so many problems. Harry wanted to reach out and cause someone as much pain as he was feeling right now, he wanted to lash out, he wanted to scream.

And so he did.


Harry ran weeping up the stairs, burst into Sirius' bedroom, slamming the door shut behind him and collapsed to the bed. Waves of agony washed through him as he wept. Tears flowed like rivers out of his eyes. He gasped for air and shook with pain as he succumbed to the horrible realization that he couldn't control the pain any longer.

Harry sobbed and cried and wept, and he ignored the passage of time. He could have been weeping for minutes, or hours, he didn't know. The terrible agony of his loss wrenched at his heart and soul until he couldn't bear it any longer. And then he wept some more.


Several uncomfortable minutes passed as the group listened to Harry's tormented cries. Ron and Hermione held each other close, slightly jumping at each wail of pain from their best friend. Hermione wept freely, tears flowing down her cheeks. Ron's eyes were glassy with unshed tears as he tried to fight back his own pain. As another wail of pain burst down the stairs, Ron lost his battle, clutching Hermione closer, he wept with his friends.

Remus Lupin's eyes shone with tears, his chest stopped each time Harry screamed in agony, and the hair on the back of his neck stood upright each time Harry sobbed. A low growl erupted from his throat, the wolf rising up in shared pain with his pack. His fists clenched in rage as he stood helpless to protect the only child the Marauders would ever know.

Albus Dumbledore slumped into a chair, his face worn, his eyes defeated. He groaned with every sob heard from upstairs, and winced each time Harry coughed, gasping for air.

Fred and George Weasley silently stared out the window, unsure of where to look or what to do. Their thoughts racing as they tried to think of something to lighten the tension that filled the room. Nothing came to mind, and they both sighed at the bitter taste of defeat.

Ginny stood in the doorway, resolutely looking up the stairs, her body swaying with the tempo of Harry's cries. Each time he paused, gulping in air, her head bowed in silent synchronicity to his agony. At every wail her head snapped up, tears streaming down her face. Every sob caused her face to twitch. She felt each breath of Harry's as a blow. Each tear was an open wound. Every cry a stab of pain.

Mrs. Weasley was wringing her hands, pacing back and forth across the room, as Mr. Weasley tried to comfort her.

"We have to do something," fretted Molly Weasley. "We can't let him be like this, we have to help him. I have to do something. I am going to talk with him."

Determinedly she started towards the stairs. Dumbledore rose, as if to object, when Ginny rested a hand on his arm.

"Excuse me professor, but I'll handle this," she said calmly. "Mother, sit down. You can't do anything for him. Harry doesn't realize this, but you cannot comfort him right now. You cannot make his pain go away. You cannot help him. He needs you, but not yet."

Mrs. Weasley stared at her daughter, unsure of what to say to the carefully controlled witch in front of her. Who replaced her little baby girl with this determined young woman?

Hermione pulled away from Ron, sighing and prepared to make her way up the stairs.

"Not you either, Hermione. You can't help him right now. The only person that can talk him off this ledge is me. We'll be right back"

With steel in her voice, the determined witch marched up the stairs and silently opened the door to the bedroom Harry was in. Somewhat shocked at the sound of the weeping and gasping for air coming from Harry, Ginny slowly shut the door, and waited for Harry to pause.

Harry finally realized that there was another presence in the room with him. Without even looking he turned his head, and cleared his throat.

Standing up, he muttered "Go away. I need to be alone."

"Harry, we are going to talk about this," Ginny said. "You have upset everyone, and we have to talk. You can't go on like this. You've barely eaten, you don't sleep unless you are exhausted, and you've yelled at just about everyone that has tried to talk with you."

"I AM NOT GOING TO TALK ABOUT ANYTHING!" Harry shouted. "I JUST WANT TO BE LEFT ALONE. YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND. . . I'VE LOST EVERYTHING, I KILLED HIM. SIRIUS IS DEAD. . . BECAUSE OF ME. . ." His precarious control long since abandoned, tears streamed down his face. His breath came in gasps as he verbalized what he'd been thinking and feeling over the past few weeks.

"I just. . .It's MY FAULT. My godfather is dead and. . ." with that Ginny stormed over and did the most unexpected thing, Harry never even saw it coming, she slapped him.

"You selfish bastard," she quietly fumed at him. "How dare you do that? How dare you think that? You have no right."

A red welt appeared on Harry's face as his hand gently touched the spot Ginny had so brutally smacked. His anger, a crescendo of pain and guilt, seemed to pale in comparison to the anger that was emanating from Ginny. Not for the first time did Harry see the comparison to Ginny's mother in this tiny witch in front of him. And for the first time he understood why every Weasley male was scared of Molly and terrified of Ginny.

"I don't understand?" She said coldly, and quietly, her rage barely kept in check. "I don't understand what it is like to have Him in your head? I don't understand what it's like to feel guilty for the harm caused by my own actions that He forced on me? I thought we had covered that ground Harry Potter. I thought we had an understanding. But apparently you are too childish, too self-absorbed to understand something so simple."

"Bu-u-u." Harry spluttered.

"Did I say that I was finished? Did you think it was your turn?" Ginny glared at Harry, her arms crossed, her entire body poised to reach out and crush him. "You will sit down, shut your mouth, and listen to me like you've never listened to anyone in your life or I will make you wish that every Death Eater on the planet was hitting you with the Cruciatus at the same time. Do you understand me? DO YOU?"

Harry was unable to respond to the calm fury that this tiny girl, no, woman was throwing at him. He stumbled backwards and fell into an armchair.

"Harry James Potter, I asked you a question, I expect a response. NOW!" Ginny's voice cracked with authority and Harry dazedly nodded his head to indicate his assent.

"You have violated many things lately Harry, and you will understand what you've done when I'm through with you. Then you will be allowed to speak, and then you will be allowed to apologize. You will pay attention and you will take my advice, otherwise Merlin help you because I certainly won't."

Ginny calmly pulled a chair over and sat down, rubbing her face to relieve the stress and pressure that she felt. The anger that had been boiling in her since she received Harry's inadequate response to her letter threatened to explode again, but she held it firmly in check. For now.

In a deceptively calm voice she continued.

"Since term ended we have all been worried about you. Mom, Dad, Ron, Hermione, Remus, Tonks, Luna, Neville, and Professor Dumbledore." At the mention of the Headmaster's name Harry opened his mouth as if to speak but the fierce glare from Ginny made him shrink back into his chair.

"The owls we sent, Dad's visit, you've tried to push us all away. All we got was the same message: 'I'm fine. I want to be alone.' Well we can't leave you alone you stupid prat. We absolutely can't. We need you Harry, we need to help you, we need to be with you, we need the security of knowing that you will be okay."

Harry's anger exploded and he jumped from the chair, "I'm sick of everyone thinking they own a piece of me, that I'm just some stupid tool they can pull out when they need it. 'Good Harry, sit here' 'Bad Harry, don't do that'. . ." His anger faltered as Ginny raised her hand as if to strike him again, tears welling in her eyes.

"I've told you once that you were going to listen, and so help me if you interrupt again you selfish, insufferable fool." What scared Harry most about her tone was the deceptive mildness with which she spoke. It made the furor of Uncle Vernon seem mild, the cruelty of Lucius Malfoy seem lighthearted, and the hatred in Voldemort's mind benign. He sat down again, drained of his anger.

"Do you understand how much my mother loves you? Do you know that from the day she met you at the Hogwart's Express she took you into her heart and has never let go? With every adventure she never knew who she was more worried about, you or Ron, or now me and Hermione too? When she's around you her eyes never leave you, she always reaches out to smooth your hair, rub your back, and grab you into a great big bear hug to try and provide you with some warmth, some love, some way to let you know that she loves you as a mother loves a child.

"Dad is the same way, but he shows it by asking you an endless list of questions about those silly Muggles. New inventions, uses of 'eckletricty,' or how things work. He just can't stop talking to you. I know you think it is his fascination with Muggles, but it is really just an opportunity for him to talk with you, to show you his way of love, to try to provide a father figure to you that you so desperately need. But you are too afraid to show that you need him, or just don't know how. You never knew a parents love, but he wants you to have it.

"And then there's Ron. He has Bill, Charlie, Fred, George, even Percy. Why would he need another brother? He even has a silly little sister near enough his own age. Why add another sibling in his mind? Because you became his friend without knowing who he was. Sixth brother to a poor family. Head Boys, Prefects, Quidditch captains, dragon raisers, curse breakers, class clowns, every time Ron turns around another brother has done it first. But you didn't care. He was nice to you, probably the first person to be nice to you outside of Hagrid, and you rejected Malfoy for him. No one of your reputation, your wealth, your heritage, should ever have refused a Malfoy for a Weasley, but you did. And you have stayed his best friend through all of the horrible adventures, and you have helped him grow into the good man he is today. He loves you more than he loves any of his brothers, but he's such a git he can't even say it.

"Hermione, your sister. Different parents, sure, but she is your sister nonetheless. She's insufferable, but you love her. She's always right, and you still love her. She's always been there for you, and always will be. And you know it. And it scares you. You want so badly to protect her that it hurts, I know. I see the look you give her every time I look into Ron's face. Or Bill's, or Charlie's, even, still, in Percy's. Fred and George cover it best with their jokes and laughs, but when the times get tough, it is there. And it is overwhelming, but reassuring that someone loves you that much. And she knows that love from you. Do you feel hers in return?

"I can't even describe Remus. You have hurt him more than anyone, I think. He feels such a tremendous amount of pain for you Harry. He lost his best friends because of that monster. First your parents, and at the same time he thought Wormtail a dead hero and Sirius an imprisoned traitor. Then he finds out Wormtail is the traitor and Sirius a martyr. For a brief time they were able to experience the joy of their friendship, and then it gets cruelly taken away. Again by that monster. He tried to reach out to you, to comfort you, to try to fill a void that can never be filled. And you cruelly reject him. And yet he still loves you.

"And finally the Headmaster. I know you are angry with him, I know you think you hate him, but have you ever seen, can you even see, how much he cares for you? When we came up out of the Chamber he only had eyes for you. He was pleased I was alive, glad that Ron was safe, vastly amused that Lockhart lost his memory, but his entire focus was on you. He wouldn't leave Madam Pomfrey alone, he kept checking in on you. All behind the scenes, of course. For some reason he didn't want you to know. And on that horrible night when Cedric died. Oh Harry, when you came back, clutching his body, I thought Dumbledore was going to die. He was SCARED Harry. Imagine, Albus Dumbledore, he defeated Grindelwald, and he was scared because of you. When that impostor snatched you away, Harry, it was so confusing. People were screaming, crying, yelling. But I was there, near him, and Harry, I was scared. Terrified.

"I lived with Tom Riddle in my head for almost a year and he never made me as terrified as at that moment when Dumbledore realized you were gone. The power he has, well, it's just awful. He was so determined, so forceful, it was like a wave shot through the crowd, and they parted to give him room. The air was alive with the power.

"I know you feel he has let you down, and I can't pretend to understand all that has gone on between you two, but I don't know if you can understand the love that Professor Dumbledore is trying to show you. It is the love of a parent for a child. I know it is not fair, you've never experienced it, but the way he tries to protect you, but is it any different than the way Mum or Dad protect me or Ron?

"So many people love you Harry. Let them. They are ALL downstairs, hurting in their own way because of you, and FOR you. Each one of them, they are all downstairs weeping for your pain, hurt by your loss, devastated for you. And because of you. For the past few weeks all you have done is lash out at those that love you, care for you.

"Harry, I could go on for every other person you know. You have found your way into the hearts of many people. And they have found their way into yours. That's what makes you so special, and so vulnerable.

"So you got tricked. And you caused pain and suffering. Join the club. He's the most powerful Dark wizard ever. The fact that you couldn't discover his trick is not your fault. The fact that you got fooled by him is not your fault. You were 15 years old, you'd been abused, mistreated, ignored, mocked, taunted, and you were having dreams and visions that you couldn't, or wouldn't, talk with anyone about. He is a master manipulator and he found out how to manipulate you. He violated you in ways more profound and more lasting than any physical harm he could have done to you.

"I know. I have nightmares to this day about that damn diary. I see Tom laughing at me, forcing me to free the basilisk, making me kill the roosters, and destroy your room. In my nightmares you don't make it down into the Chamber, and I become him. I see him rampage the world through my eyes using my hands, my wand, but part of me is still there, separate, knowing the evil he is causing, screaming at the pain and terror, but unable to do anything. Usually I wake up when he makes me kill my Mum or Dad, sometimes it takes more deaths and destruction. And I realize it is just a dream, but it is SO real.

"So I know the guilt you feel, but you have to get over it. Sirius is dead, and that is horrible and my heart screams out in agony for him, for you, for all of us. But you have to accept that he's dead, accept that it is not your fault, and move on. Remember the good times you had with him. Though too few, there were good times. Talk with Remus, gather up other memories of Sirius, remember the good, don't forget the bad, but always remember the good.

"You'd give up your life for all of us, we know that, but we don't want you to give up your life for us Harry Potter. We want you to live for us. Live with us. We love you. Love us. Stop being the Boy Who Lived and be the Boy Who Lives."

Ginny's eyes were sparkling with tears as they slowly streamed down her cheeks. She took a deep breath, walked over to Harry and kissed his forehead, brushing her lips on his scar.

"The pain will subside, it will get easier. But it will never be gone. It will never be over. You have to take small steps and move forward. Sirius wouldn't want you to stop living because of him.

"Your family will be downstairs waiting for you to join us when you are ready." And she silently left the room, closing the door on the bewildered Boy Who Lived.