My thanks go out to the following FanFiction authors (in no particular order): Draco664, Arya1, Myth and Legend, Full-Pensieve, and WolfMoon for their stories which are a great source of enjoyment and inspiration for me.

I hope that I am able to produce a work of fiction that is as entertaining and well written as theirs. As it is, I should credit them to some degree for the variations in this story as inevitably their novels have impacted my view of the Potterverse. I continuously struggle to ensure that the storyline and characterizations within are unique except to canon. (though with over 200,000 HP fanfics just on this site, that is a tremendous task)

Obviously my thanks are also extended to J.K. Rowling, who I am in fact plagiarizing from as that is the inherent nature of fan fiction.  Harry Potter and all that is involved are her creation, for which my family and I are forever grateful. I only hope to add another twist to her fabulous work. 

Most of all my thanks go to my wife who lets me sit on the computer till all hours of the night writing this story and is still willing to proof read and edit it.

Please read and review.

Summary: Post OoTP. 6th year. Harry's grief and the burden of the prophecy require him to make important decisions about his life. His trusts, where he seeks guidance, and the world around him are brought into question. New magic, mysterious visions and the Fire of Life lead Harry Potter through a tumultuous sixth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Chapter 1:  Dark Days on Privet Drive

It was a little after 2:00 p.m on a Friday afternoon in the development of Little Whinging in Surrey, a bit south of London. The fourth house on Privet Drive, ironically known as Number 4, blended unnoticeably into the rows upon rows of houses. Of course the grass in the yard may have been a bit too meticulously manicured, the car in the driveway remarkably clean, but for the most part Number 4 Privet Drive was an unspectacular site. However, upstairs in the bedroom, a most spectacular young wizard known as Harry Potter sat on the floor of his bedroom. Hunched against the wall, the young man leaned his forehead against his arms and stared motionless at the floor between his legs. 

Obscure shadows traced their origins along the wall and floors as though the room was breathing in darkness.  The air felt heavy and the thick silence of the dark environment was uninviting.  The burning orange sunlight traced the edges of the drawn window shade.  Its light fought in defiance trying to penetrate the gloomy atmosphere that filled Harry's bedroom. The fact that it was a beautiful summer day, the world outside singing with life and reveling in its beauty was lost to him.  His world wasn't aware of any physical surroundings. His mind trapped in another iteration of Sirius Black's death replaying in all its horror. 

What the hell was wrong with Lupin, he was supposed to be Sirius' best friend, how could he just let him go? How could he just watch him fall through that tattered piece of cloth?  What gave him the right to stop me from going after Sirius? He is my godfather and I need him – he was all that I had left. 

Harry's tears felt like acid against the raw skin beneath his eyes, the result of being rubbed too hard, too often, in such a short period of time. He forced his eyes closed wringing out the built up tears behind them. He watched as two of them cascaded to the floor vanishing silently into the carpet beneath him. 

Why did I even go to the Ministry of Magic? Hermione knew! Ron knew! Hell, even Neville knew…had to 'play the hero'…followed me anyway didn't they? How can this go on? How can I kill Voldemort…"kill or be killed"…"one can't live while the other survives"…how could Dumbledore keep this from me for five years? How can I expect…no…want anyone to be close to me now.

"I am a curse to those around me." The silence shattered in the room, the walls and floor the only audience to hear Harry's spoken thought.

Harry shuddered as his own words rung in his ears.  Lifting his head slightly from its downward glance as if anticipating confirmation from the empty room.  Every time he played out this argument with himself he couldn't get past this point. 

A sardonic smile twisted painfully against Harry's grieving features, "It's almost funny really. They think I'm a hero for what my mother did to save me, now anyone who I love ends up dead."

Saying it out loud didn't help to make the guttural pain of the realization go away.

"Who am I to ask people to face pain and death on my account? I won't let them suffer for being my friends."

Harry heard the guffaw of his Uncle Vernon from the living room below.  Usually the sound of his uncle would only annoy the young man.  Now, Harry believed that even the hated Dursleys didn't deserve the burden he felt he placed on them.

More than anything Harry Potter simply sought normalcy and a sense of belonging, though he really couldn't tell you exactly what that meant. To the world of wizards he wasn't normal, he was more than that – he was The-Boy-Who-Lived.  To the Dursleys, his muggle (non wizard) relatives, he was an abomination and embarrassment.  Certainly he would try to tell you he was "just Harry" a normal 15 year old wizard. However, to his dismay he was always reminded otherwise. Even in his own presence the lightening bolt shaped scar on his forehead forever defied him of normalcy – from being just Harry. After the events of the past five years of his life he was starting to believe otherwise too.

Harry had spent the past four days locked up in his mirthless room lost in thought.  He recalled the memories of the past five years of his life and rode them like an emotional rollercoaster.  The good memories, like the wonder and intrigue he felt when he first saw Diagon Alley, was always followed by the bad, like the fear and insecurity he felt when he learned Voldemort was after him. Up and down he went and for each single good memory more bad memories accosted his mind. 

The complete joy he felt when Hermione awoke from her petrified state, the complete horror he felt when Ginny Weasley was taken in the Chamber of Secrets. The freedom of flying on his Firebolt, desperation and loss he felt when being attacked by dementors, the betrayal of finding out the truth about Peter Pettigrew.  Winning the House Cup, watching Cedric Diggory die, watching Voldemort return, then being ridiculed in the Daily Prophet and eventually by his dorm mates for the whole event.  Teaching the DA, detention with Umbridge, being banned for life from quiddich, watching the horrible behavior of his father, Sirius falling through the veil – dying. 

It was a vicious cycle.  The roller coaster rode up and down, but it always ended the same way – at a dead end, at Sirius.

If it is at all possible it could have been worse, his muggle relatives hadn't bothered him about chores or any of the other annoying drivel he once had to tolerate.  Though unconsidered by Harry, it might have done him some good to have activities that could occupy his mind.  He could read his spell books or send post by his owl Hedwig to his friends, the Dursleys had not cut him off from the magical world like they always had in the past.  He just wanted nothing to do with magic at all this summer.  Everything reminded him of Sirius, every thought returned him to the prophecy, to that awful night when that old man placed the worst burden Harry could imagine onto his shoulders.

It wasn't enough that Harry had to face the entire trouble filled school year without so much as eye contact from his most trusted source of guidance.  But Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts, had kept the most awful secret from him, for five years no less.  Even worse, the Headmaster decided to tell him this secret – this prophecy, the same night that he was possessed by the very subject of the prophecy, the night that he watched his godfather die. Like a memorized song, the bane of Harry's existence replayed in his mind. 

The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches...born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies...and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not...and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives...the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies...

Harry thought about the remarkable job he did destroying the things in Dumbledore's office that night.  He remembered the regret he felt for his outburst. Thinking back on it now, he wasn't so sorry now. 

Another one of Uncle Vernon's obnoxious belly laughs rang through the household.  It was amazing to Harry that the world just moved on despite everything that was happening.  Even in the household that he lived a carefree attitude that felt so foreign to him could be heard. 

Harry had been more affable to his muggle guardians on account of their allowances, though he knew they were only due to Moody's threat at King's Cross.  He was hardly noticed by the Dursleys in the four days he had been back to Little Whinging.  Harry only left his room to go to the bathroom and clean up the food brought to him. And to his Aunt's surprise, the young man always thanked her for the food.  His only true interaction since his return had been with Petunia, and that on his second night back to the house. 

"You will not be lying in the flower bed this year eavesdropping on your Uncle and me during the evening news!" Petunia's mouth pursed into a thin line as she brought dinner to his room.  "And I will not tolerate you soiling this room with filth and unfinished plates of food." Her head was held high as though she were trying to convince someone of her statements, "We have had the decency to not only feed you, but bring this food to you since you insist on not leaving this cesspit of a room. Honestly, if you haven't the decency to maintain your own hygiene, you could at least respect the tidiness of my household."  Petunia paused for a moment, "If these first two days are an example of how you are intending to spend your summer in my house well…well…" 

Harry could tell that his Aunt was weighing the benefits of properly berating her detested nephew against the unknown consequences of the ultimatum belayed to her and Uncle Vernon at the train station.

" 'm sorry." Harry mumbled to his Aunt while he still looked at the floor between his knees. 

"How's that boy, have the decency to look up and speak properly when you address me."

Looking straight at his Aunt Harry repeated, "I'm sorry." 

The emotion conveyed behind the words seemed greater than any other apology Harry had ever delivered in this house. Petunia shifted, apparently the emotion behind the apology was not completely lost on her. 

Petunia continued, "Well…you should be, I mean look at this room, in a right state you keep yourself.  I am not cleaning up…"

"I will write to the people from the train station and tell them not to check up, that I am being kept properly." Harry interrupted, "and I will let them know that they should not disturb you, Uncle Vernon, or Dudley."

Petunia opened her mouth and then closed it again, finally she managed, "well…I don't…there should…I would hope that none of your frea…er, kind would come around embarrassing us in front of the neighbors." 

Harry looked back down between his knees, letting his hair hang over his face. "I am truly sorry for the burden I place upon your family."  The words just barely reached Petunia's ears.

The women stood unsettled at this, her thin mouth pursed again, she turned and left his dark room. 

Since that conversation Harry had noticed that his Aunt seemed less sure how to act around him. She had not spoken to him properly since their conversation two days ago, but she had continued to bring him meals in the morning and evening, and had even picked up the barely touched plate he left after his last breakfast. 

On the rare occasion when Harry ventured out of his room he made sure to thank his Aunt for the food and to stay out of the way of Uncle Vernon and Dudley.  Uncle Vernon seemed quite pleased with this arrangement.  Though he made sure to vocalize his displeasure with the fact that Harry was no longer required to do chores around the house.

"It is bad enough we have to tolerate that boy in our home, but to simply allow him to freeload and not carry any responsibilities is just insufferable!  Those freaky people he associates with must have no sense of a proper work ethic. I simply don't understand how that boy can be so inconsiderate and…"

Uncle Vernon's voice faded out as Harry reached the entrance to his bedroom and shut the door behind him.  He wrote the letter to the order the previous day, his third back at the house, in just the manner he told his aunt he would.  He also told Hedwig that he was sorry he had ignored her since they got back, and suggested that she stay at Grimmauld Place because she would be better off there.  She nipped him affectionately and was reluctant to go but once she left Harry shut the window behind her. 

Moody, Remus, Tonks, and Kingsley 

I am still here with the Dursleys and we have come to an agreement.  While you will no doubt maintain a watch over this house, even against my wishes, I must demand that you do not interfere with the Dursleys or be seen by them or any of their neighbors.  My agreement with them is based on this and I do not wish for you to cause my word to them to be broken.

Please tell Mrs. Weasley that they are feeding me.


Harry chose his words carefully in the letter.  Between Mrs. Weasley's overbearing concern for his eating habits and Moody's mantra of constant vigilance he was sure that they would not just accept that he had come to an agreement with the Dursleys.  It was this reason that Harry made sure to include the bit about his word.  He knew they all understood what that meant to him, and at the very least they knew that if they caused him to betray his word they would all get a blast of the infamous Harry Potter temper. 

Over the past four days the only thing that Harry had done less of than eat was sleep, the dark circles under his eyes gave evidence to that.  He couldn't bare the torture of sleep.  Every time he closed his eyes the events at the ministry flashed in his mind.  Every time over and over Harry watched Ron wrapped up in the tentacles of that floating brain; Hermione lying unconscious on the floor; Ginny's broken ankle; Neville's broken nose – Sirius falling through the veil. Eventually his body forced him to surrender to sleep, and his dreams would haunt him with sick variations of these same events. Sometimes it was Sirius cursing him for not coming after him into the veil or Hermione scolding him for having to always play the hero.  He woke the same way each time, with a cold sweat and tears running down his face.  The only consolation had been that his scar hadn't burned once after the dreams, and that was little consolation to him at all. 

Where do I go from here? What does a 15-year-old boy say…do…when he finds out he is the only one who can kill the most powerful dark wizard of his time? There was always a future when I knew that Dumbledore would be able to stop Voldemort.  Always hope.  But now? What hope is there now? What do we do when I know I can't kill him?

Harry's body quivered, his mind froze, and all sensation left him.  He thought he looked up, but his eyes were no longer talking to his brain.  Suddenly there was the feeling that he was outside looking in at his own hunched figure. 

This is it, this world, this life is all there is.  There is no other world, no other reality.  No muggle world apart from the wizard world. No world where Hogwarts exists separate from everything else – there is only one world – where Voldemort exists or he does not.  A world that has a future or one that does not.

The realization was paralyzing.  If a dementor were able to invoke this magnitude of despair all would be helpless to it.  He felt like he couldn't summon the will to breathe.  The pressure behind his ears was deafening, and his heart thumped hard against his chest; as if it wanted to escape from his body more than he did.  It felt as though something was being taken from him that he could not live without.  Every inch of his fiber fought in vain to hold on to this unknown, but very necessary piece of his being.  He doubled over to the floor his eyes wide with the fear of not understanding. His mind raced to grasp what he was soul was coming to terms with. 

Is it happiness?  But I've been unhappy for so long, no it can't be that. It could be love? But I don't know love, how could I know if it was leaving?  It's Hope? Well – it feels hopeless.  Innocence.

His body wrenched as his mind made the realization.  The tears no longer burned because his face was flush with numbness.  He understood.  The epiphany weighed against his soul, but he understood what he bore.  The ability to see the world as a child was forever lost to him.  The feeling that everything would be ok in the end, the naïveté that the world was innately good, was gone forever. 

The ordeal was so taxing to him.  He lay on the floor drained and staring at the empty space beneath the bed.  His vibrant emerald green eyes betrayed the fact that he was only on the eve of his sixteenth birthday.  Instead they bore the look of a man twice his age, of someone who has seen too many horrors to quickly in life.  He looked like a person defeated. 

Harry could bear the weight no longer and his body demanded rest.  Sleep claimed him but his conscience was sure to thwart any peace from settling over him.

AN: I know the first chapter is really angst and I promise that this is not at all the tone for the whole story. It was necessary for me to set the stage this way in order for Harry to evolve from it. Besides, it's not like J.K. provided Harry with the cheeriest situation at the end of book 5. More eventful times ahead!