Chapter 1

"Come on, you can do better than that!"

The words had no sooner left his mouth then he felt the impact of the curse straight in the chest, all the air was forced from his lungs, and he fell back. He was falling down, down through the veil. A sick shriek of victory escaped the witch who had cast the spell, a shriek of terror from a fifteen- year-old boy as he lay on his bed, in the smallest bedroom of Number 4 Privet Drive.

The vision of his Godfather's death had been playing over and over in his dreams, ever since the event itself. It had been a month, yet the grief had not subsided. He felt empty inside; a vast, empty chasm had opened up where Sirius used to be. For the last month he had hardly eaten, hardly left his room. This was not because he was locked in; on the contrary, since Moody's warning to the Dursleys, they didn't dare lock him in his room. No, this year's isolation was voluntary.

He confined himself to his room, only leaving for meals and to use the lavatory, and occasionally to go for a walk. He received many letters, from friends and Order members, yet had sent only vague replies back. He wanted to be alone, and spent most of his time browsing over old notes taken in DADA classes and reading new books which he had Owl-Ordered from Flourish and Blotts. One of them, "Wandless, not Helpless" by Miranda C Bourne, had been very useful. Being under age, he was forbidden to perform magic outside school, but the Ministry of Magic was unable detect wandless magic. While a wand concentrates magic, the power itself lives in a person's head, his heart, and his blood. With a great deal of concentration, and practice, a wizard or witch can perform basic spells without the use of a wand. It was the wand itself that left the magical signature on any spells, hence the Prior Incantatem charm, that Amos Diggory had used at the Quidditch World cup, was performed on Harry's wand, rather than his body. Since no wand was being used here, there was no magical signature and so the ministry couldn't or didn't track it. Harry had mastered summoning, levitating, and unlocking, and could even conjure fire in the palm of his hand, all without having to say the incantation out loud. He had, though he would never admit it, even to Dumbledore, tried the disarming charm on Dudley's old Darth Vader action figures. This method of doing magic by concentration had two side effects. Since he was strengthening his mind by performing magic this way, his Occlumency was improving. So much so, that he had not felt his scar burn since returning to privet drive (although he felt the occasional tingle there were no migraine-inducing attacks), and he was also controlling his temper better.

Harry looked at the clock. It was just after midnight, so he was now sixteen,

Sweet sixteen, he thought to himself, I'm now old enough to smoke and to have sex. Smoking appealed to him about as much as a staring contest with a Basilisk, he had no desire to follow Dudley's example. His second option appealed more, and he sighed as he thought of his little fiasco with Cho last year. From there, his thoughts turned to Ginny. Could she ever be more than Ron's little sister? Hardly, he thought. She had had a crush on him at one point, but now she was with Dean. Maybe he was destined to be alone, he thought with a sigh. He looked down at the small pile of presents on his bed. Did they hold him responsible for their almost dying last year? After several minutes of staring at them, he took the first letter and opened it,

Dear Harry,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! How are you? Stupid question, but I had to ask. Mum's
been bugging Dumbledore to let you come home but he says that you have
to stay there for another fortnight. Fred and George's shop is doing
great, we've done up the house really nicely with all of the money
that they've sent us, but Mum still doesn't approve of their business,
and they won't tell her where they got the money to start it. Percy is
still being a git. He refuses to admit he was wrong. Great politician,

Enjoy the present. We'll be along to get you as soon as Dumbledore
gives us the go-ahead.


He opened the attached present to find a box of Chocolate Frogs and photo of the Weasley family standing in front of their newly remodelled house. Harry envied Ron, to have a family who were always there for him and would unconditionally love him every day of his life. Ron and Hermione took it for granted; yet he knew nothing of it. All of his letters said the same thing,

"Wish you could come back to us", "Stay where you are" "Keep your chin up" "Don't beat yourself up". Hermione had sent him a Quick-Notes-Quill, which was similar to Rita Skeeter's, except that it took down what was said word for word. Fred and George sent him a box of their latest and greatest inventions. Hagrid sent a note saying that he would receive his gift when he got back to Hogwarts due to a 'transportation issue', (Harry was a bit dubious about that one). Lupin sent him a video, which showed highlights of last year's league matches. He could watch it while he was at Privet Drive, as long as he waited until the Dursleys were safely out of the house. Moody sent a book entitled "Special Auror Service - Are you tough enough?" and lastly Tonks sent a subscription to "Quidditch Monthly". With all these open, there remained only one note on the bed, it was stamped with the Ministry of Magic seal. He ripped it open.

Dear Mr. Potter,

We regret to inform you of the death of SIRIUS NIGELLUS BLACK. You are
one of the beneficiaries of his Last Will and Testament, and so are
required to attend a reading of the will at the Ministry of Magic
Registry Office (3rd Floor) at Noon on Monday 4th August. Please be
prompt. The attached coupon is for a free return trip on the knight
bus. I offer my personal condolences for your loss.

Hughbert Daedelus
Registry and Public Records Office

Perfect, thought Harry, I manage to go for a whole day without thinking about Sirius and some bureaucratic fool reminds me. How typical. He dropped the letter on the floor and climbed into bed. He pulled the covers tight and concentrated on the light switch. It clicked off and darkness fell. With that he dozed off into a dream.

Monday morning came. Harry rose at eight and made breakfast for himself, dressed in robes, and pocketed his wand, just in case. His Aunt and Uncle were out with Dudley, buying his custom-made Sixth Form uniform, which was black as opposed to the Orange worn by the lower school. Dudley's had to be custom made, as an average shop doesn't hold blazers that would fit someone of Dudley's size. Harry left a note for them in case they arrived back before him and walked out into the street.

He walked for several streets before extending his wand and flagging down the Knight Bus. The journey took twenty minutes and went via Inverness, Stoke on Trent, Watford and Plymouth He arrived at the ministry with half an hour to spare. He noticed that the statues around the fountain in the entrance hall of the Ministry had been removed. Harry had had a hand in their destruction, but he felt no pity or guilt. At least they had not been replaced by a statue of Fudge. That would just cry out for defacement. The lift opened and he boarded, reached the third floor, and followed the signs to the Registry Office. Upon entering the room, Harry realised that he was not alone. The first thing that hit him, aside from the arms of Mrs. Weasley as she pulled him into a rib-crunching hug, was the smell of cinnamon and the endless stacks of paper which littered not only the shelves and cabinets, but the floor as well. What little of the wall that could be seen was painted jade green, the carpet was worn and its white had started to fade.

"How have you been, dear?" asked Molly, finally releasing him.

"'Kay" muttered Harry, eager to change the subject.

"Of course dear, of course," she said, as she thrust a Chocolate Frog into his hand. "Ron and Ginny have been going spare about you, begging us to come and get you, but Albus says that you are to stay where you are. They begged to come today, but it was too dangerous to be out in public. You at least had Remus following you."

"Remus is what?" stuttered Harry. He hadn't noticed anyone following him, let alone someone he knew.

"Give him some air, Molly" came Remus' voice from behind him. Harry turned to see his old professor remove an Invisibility Cloak. He looked like Harry felt; old and tired, his cheery smile replaced by a sad gaze. His normally sparkling eyes were vague. Tonks on the other hand, who stood behind him, was colourful to say the least. Her black garments would give the impression of someone mourning, were it not for her highlighter yellow hair tied back with a pink hair-band.

"Hem hem," came a small cough from behind the shelves. "You are here for Mr. Black's will are you not?"

"Yes," replied Tonks.

"A little early but no matter, I can have an early lunch". A man appeared from behind the shelves holding a black envelope. He gestured at five chairs in front of the desk. Harry sat between Remus and Arthur Weasley. Mr. Daedelus opened the envelope and placed it on the desk. It twitched then folded itself into the shape of a mouth; Sirius' voice filled the room.

"I Sirius Nigellus Black, do hereby decree that this is my last will and testament. My possessions are to be divided up in the following manner. To my cousin Nymphadora Tonks, I leave 20 000 Galleons. To my cousin Arthur Weasley I leave 20 000 Galleons. I donate 5 000 Galleons to the National Wolfsbane Research Centre. I leave my mother's portrait, (should you be able to remove it), to my cousin Bellatrix Lestrange. I donate 500 Galleons to SPEW and the rest, including the property 12 Grimmauld Place and all objects contained therein, is to be divided up equally between my friend Remus Julian Lupin and my Godson Harry James Potter. Signed S. N. Black"

Harry was shocked. He had not known that Sirius had that much money. More to the point, he had found it hard to hear his voice again; he had so far not shed a tear for Sirius, but he was feeling close to doing so now.

"If you would please use that fireplace to Floo to Gringotts, your inheritances shall be sorted once you arrive."

Harry emerged from the fire into the bright entrance hall of Gringotts. Griphook the Goblin, who had been expecting them, led them past the queues, into one of the carts. They arrived at vault 711 and dismounted. Griphook opened the door and led them all inside. Harry had been shocked the first time he laid eyes on his parent's fortune, but theirs was nothing compared to this. There were piles and piles of Galleons, mountains of Sickles and a molehill or two of Knuts.

"20 000 Galleons to Nymphadora Tonks," said Griphook, reading the will which Mrs. Weasley had given him. "What is your vault number, Madam?"

"863," replied Tonks. Griphook clicked his fingers and some Gold disappeared. This made little difference; had Harry not been watching, he would not have noticed the disappearance of 20 000 gold coins. Griphook sent of the money to the different recipients until it was only Harry and Remus left.

"And how would you like the rest do be divided sirs?"

"Harry?" asked Lupin

"Just leave it here. Give Remus the key, we'll share it," mumbled Harry. In truth, he didn't want a penny. He wanted to go home. Everything in the vault reminded him of Sirius, of an event he would rather forget. Suddenly he felt very claustrophobic. "I need some air," he added, marching out of the vault, towards the waiting cart.

"Mr. Lupin?" asked Griphook as Harry left.

"Do as he says," sighed Lupin.

Once outside, Harry sighed. The afternoon had brought a lot of painful memories oozing to the surface. He needed time to think, both about Sirius and about his destiny, to be either the perpetrator or the victim of a murder. Since his talk with Dumbledore at the end of the last year, Harry had felt disconnected from society. Lupin put a hand on Harry's shoulder. Remus was the only one who was feeling as bad as he was about Sirius. As for the headmaster, well, Harry was still angry, but he knew he couldn't just ignore the Headmaster. Deep down, Harry knew that he had to forgive Dumbledore.

"Come on Harry, I'll buy you a drink," said Lupin. Several Butterbeers and even a glass of Fire Whiskey, later, (Lupin had let him try it), Harry and Remus emerged from the Leaky Cauldron. He felt better than he had in a while; talking to someone really did help when you were upset. They had spent hours talking about school, life, friends, and what was happening. Lupin threw in a few anecdotes about Harry's father and Sirius' exploits and Harry had explained about the prophecy, though he had made Remus promise not to tell anyone. Remus had, uncomfortable to say the least, given Harry the talk. Trying to discuss the facts of life with someone who has had four Butterbeers and a glass of Whiskey is not as easy as it might seem, as when one is drunk, one has the tendency to start laughing at the word sex.

At half past five, Harry caught the knight bus back to Privet Drive. The journey took an hour, as the bus was busy. Harry didn't mind waiting; he needed time alone. He opened the front door to number four to find that his Aunt and Uncle were sitting in the living room.

"What do you think you're doing out dressed like that?" hissed Uncle Vernon, turning red with anger. "What if the neighbours had seen you?"

"They didn't, and would they really care if they did?" replied Harry impatiently.

"I will not be spoken to like that boy." He was becoming more furious and consequently redder every second.

"If you insist. I'll get changed then I'll be off again."

"Go where, off to a gathering of freaks? Sacrificing goats, summoning demons and all that nonsense." Harry, struggling to suppress his laugh at the thought, ran upstairs and changed into some old clothes of Dudley's. He pocketed his wand out of pure habit and was back down in the kitchen in less than three minutes. He stepped out into the night, closing the door behind him. The sun was setting, there was a cold breeze, and the street was quiet. There was no movement except for garden plants swaying in the wind.

Harry zipped up his coat and walked down the path. He walked aimlessly down road after road, pondering his past and his future, before rounding a corner and heading towards the park. There was a cold breeze blowing. Harry stuck his hands in his pockets to keep them warm. Harry looked up at the clear sky. Firenze had told him that the future was hidden in those stars, but Harry already knew his. Harry was walking along the side of the park, when he heard faint voices and a person crying. He hopped the park gate and headed towards where the voices were coming from. As he neared the swings, he saw Dudley and his friend Piers Polkiss standing over the cowering figure of Mark Evans. Mark was eleven now. Dudley and his gang had been picking on him for over a year. The poor boy was defenceless. Piers gave Mark a hard kick to the gut and the two older boys laughed. Anger rose in Harry; causing pain for personal pleasure was just sick. Dudley needed a good kick in his fat arse and Harry felt like giving him just that.

Dudley bent down and picked up the sobbing boy by his collar. Harry was leaning against the public toilets block, ten feet away. No one had detected his approach. Dudley thrust Mark roughly into the upright support beam of the swings. Mark whimpered as his back hit the steel pole.

"Put him down", hissed Harry coolly. Dudley dropped him in surprise. A look of terror spread over Dudley's face while a wicked grim spread over Piers'.

"Well if it ain't the freak. St Brutus' Centre for Retards, right?" smirked Piers.

"Maybe we should just leave," mumbled Dudley. He was still terrified that Harry would set 'one of those Dementoid-thingies' on him.

"The smartest suggestion you've ever made, Big D!" replied Harry coolly.

"Aw, come on Dud, lets kick his scrawny arse," growled Piers.

"I wouldn't if I were you, Piers," said Harry softly. He hoped he was appearing more intimidating than he felt. "Mark, go home." The boy nervously nodded to the Criminally Incurable boy and scurried off home. Harry, Dudley and Piers were alone.

Harry heard a car pass in the distance, and felt the wind bite against his face, and then it happened. Piers leapt forward and swung with his right hand. Harry grabbed the hand kicked the back of his legs; Piers fell to his knees before him. Seeing that Harry wasn't using his wand, Dudley moved forwards. He swung. Harry ducked, releasing Piers in the process. Dudley turned again, and Piers swept Harry's legs out from under him. Harry hit the ground hard; Dudley took a step forward but before he could kick Harry, the tree behind him exploded in a shower of red sparks. Dudley dived on the ground, Piers screamed, and Harry rolled over.

He watched in horror as four Death Eaters vaulted the fence of the park. Their masks were glowing white, while their cloaks were blacker than the night itself. Each had their wand out and aimed at him. The streetlamps had gone out, and the only light was from the burning remains of the tree destroyed by the spell.

"What the hell was that? Who are they?" stuttered Piers

"Harry, it's Lord Mouldy-Fart, do something!" whimpered Dudley.

"Take cover!" shouted Harry, taking out his wand. He turned to face the Death Eaters again. Dudley dived behind a bench as Piers took cover behind a tree. Harry was impressed that Dudley could actually hide behind a bench without his arse sticking out the far end. He leapt to his feet and fired off four stunners in quick succession over his shoulder as he ran for the cover of a Hydrangea bush. They all missed.

He peered through the branches of the bush, and could just make out three figures advancing on him. Only three! Where is...a hand landed on Harry's shoulder. He instinctively kicked out at the man, his right heel connecting sharply with the man's private parts. The man crumpled and Harry stunned him at point black range, leaving a small scorch mark on the man's robes. The mask fell off as he hit the ground. Azkaban had clearly been liberated, for Rodolphus Lestrange was unconscious before him. That left three.

"Reducto!" cried three voices, and the bush that was acting as Harry's shield vaporized. Harry pointed his wand at himself and yelled, "Wingardium Leviosa!" He rocketed twenty feet into the air and landed on the roof of the public toilets. A huge, fat Death Eater ran forwards, firing a curse which missed by nearly three feet.

"Expelliarmus!" yelled Harry, and his charm hit the Death Eater in the gut. The man buckled but did not go down. He dived for his wand, which had landed on the grass nearby, but was too slow. Harry wandlessly summoned it and, with a wand in each hand, sent two stunners simultaneously at the Death Eater. The man crumpled as both spells hit him in the chest. He smashed into the ground and lay still. Harry jumped down from the roof, twisting his ankle as he landed. He tried to ignore the pain as he limped towards where Dudley and Piers were watching in both fear, and awe.

"Duck!" yelled Dudley. Harry dived onto the floor. He felt a chill as the Killing Curse passed over his head and blew apart the fence. He rolled and raised both wands, and he fired five disarming charms against the advancing Death Eaters, but they blocked them effortlessly.

"Avada Kedavra!" screamed one of the Death Eaters. The spell came zooming towards Harry. He knew his shield charm wouldn't work, and there was no time to duck; he was going to die. Suddenly Harry heard a screech as a white fluffy ball zoomed in front of him and hit the curse head on. Another screech filled the air as the Snowy Owl fell to the ground, dead.

"Hedwig!" cried Harry, but it was too late. She was dead before she hit the ground. He turned his attention to the Death Eaters, who were still coming. As they passed the climbing frame, Harry had an idea.

"Reducto!" he shouted. The support beam of the frame vanished and the whole metal frame began to fall.

"Hah! Missed, Potty!" yelled the Death Eater. He raised his wand but before he could say a word, the metal climbing frame fell on top of him. The last remaining Death Eater looked down at his fallen comrade and Disapparated. Harry rose slowly and turned to face Dudley and Piers, who emerged from their hiding places looking very pale indeed.

"W...Who were they?" asked Piers. "What was all that..." That was as far as he got. The Death Eater had reappeared behind Piers and grabbed him around the neck, forcing his wand against Pier's throat.

"Potter, help me," whimpered Piers. Harry couldn't fire or he might hit Piers.

Is that a bad thing? Harry wondered. He was a git, but should Harry stun him? Stunners can be reversed. What should I do?

"Sorry Piers," sighed Harry. "Wingardium Leviosa!" Piers shot out of the Death Eater's arms and flew into the air. Harry seized his chance,

"Stupefy!" he yelled. The Death Eater keeled over; as the spell hit him square in the face. Harry wandlessly caught Piers and put him down.

"That was cool!" commented Dudley, looking at Harry in a new light, he had just woken up to the fact that Magic wasn't about black cats, boiling newt's eyes and turning people into toads. "What else can you do?"

"God damn it, Dudley, this is not a game!" snarled Harry. The adrenalin had just worn off, and the full extent of what he had just done dawned on him. "They came here to torture you, to kill you and your entire family. Not to impress you with a light show," growled Harry. "I'm probably going to be expelled for saving your worthless arse...again!"

"What were those lights any...lookout!" Harry spun around. The Death Eater was clear of the Climbing Frame wreckage, he shot a beam of purple light towards Harry, the same spell Harry had seen used on Hermione in the Department of Mysteries last July. Harry had no time to react.

"Proteg..." The spell hit him in the ribs, pain ripped through his body, and he fell to the ground. Piers froze, but Dudley, displaying a surprising presence of mind, grabbed Harry's wand and pointed it at the Death Eater,

"Abra Kadabra" he squeaked. The irony of the most common Muggle magic word and the killing curse having such similar sounding names would normally be cause for a laugh, but Harry could hardly breathe. He covered the wound with his hand, but it came away covered in a thick, red liquid. He was bleeding badly.

"Stupefy," he croaked to Dudley.

"STUPEFY!" yelled Dudley more confidently. The wand tip glowed red but did nothing else. Dudley dropped the wand. He and Piers cowered back, unable to run, rooted to the spot, as the Death Eater advanced, ten paces away, nine, eight - Harry felt consciousness begin to slip away. He was dying, six paces, five. Suddenly, a flash of blue light struck the Death Eater, propelling him into the burning stump of the tree. Harry tried to move, to see who had cast that spell. Had Lupin or Moody come to his aid?

No, all he saw was a woman, blond, tall with cold, grey, hollow eyes. No it couldn't be her! She couldn't be here. The last thing Harry saw was her bending over him, he felt her pick him up, then everything went black.