By James Milamber
Summary: Post OotP. Harry deals with the loss of his Godfather, with some help from a certain red head. Hogwarts gets a new DADA teacher who has more than a few secrets. And all the while, Voldemort watches from the shadows, awaiting the moment to strike…
A/N: I would just like to apologise for the pitiful quality of the first ten chapters or so. It does get better. Really. One day I'm going to re-write all these chapters...and hopefully take the cringe factor down slightly.
Dawn stained the horizon with an angry glow as a boy with messy black hair sat at his window and watched. It had become almost a ritual now, to greet the sun every morning. He wasn't exactly sure why he did it, or why he drew comfort from watching the glowing orb slide higher into the sky.
A dot appeared in the distance, quickly resolving into the form of Hedwig. Harry moved aside to allow the owl to swoop through the window, coming to perch on the end of his bed. He smiled sadly, stroking the soft feathers on her head as she hooted softly, nibbling at his fingers.
Harry removed the letter attached to his owl's leg, seeing it was from Ron, and settled onto the bed to read.
Mum just got word back from Dumbledore. Sorry mate, but he reckons it'll be safer for you to stay with the Muggles for the rest of the summer. Should have seen Mum, she looked like she was going to yell at him when he said that.
Anyway, apparently we can't go to Grimmauld Place, either. Some of the old crowd had their houses attacked, so they're staying with Lupin. There must be a lot of them, because Mum said there wasn't enough room for us, and it's a big house.
Sorry that my news is bad, but maybe Dumbledore will let you visit after all, at least for your birthday. Write back soon!
Harry closed his eyes tightly, pinching the bridge of his nose, then sighed and flopped back onto the bed. Another month and a half with the Dursleys. Harry couldn't help but feel a flash of resentment toward Dumbledore, then guilt as he remembered their 'conversation' at the end of last year which resulted in the wholesale destruction of Dumbledore's office.
He resolutely stopped himself from thinking about the cause of that conversation.
The next week passed mostly without incident. Every other day since the start of the holidays Harry had received a large food hamper from Mrs. Weasley, along with a note reminding him to eat well, and telling him to write back if he needed more food.
He spent most of his time in his room brooding. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia, who had evidently taken Mad-Eye Moody's parting warning to heart, were going out of their way to avoid him, and that suited him right down to the ground. He began taking long walks every evening, hoping to exhaust himself before nightfall; hoping to drive away the nightmares where he repeatedly saw Sirius falling through the veil. A part of him still refused to accept that his godfather was really dead, but deep down he knew the truth, and it constantly threatened to tear him apart. Sometimes he wanted to just start screaming and never stop, but knew he couldn't. The world was counting on him, and every time he began to feel overwhelmed with Sirius' death, he forced himself to imagine the first time he had walked into Diagon Alley. There had been so many happy faces, so many people just living their normal lives, without fear that they could suddenly be attacked and killed as they did their shopping. He couldn't fail these unnamed, faceless people. Their lives depended on him. It was a lot of responsibility to shoulder, but he grimly carried on.
He was sitting at his desk, idly leafing through his Charms textbook, when Pig rocketed through the open window, colliding with Harry's shoulder. With Seeker reflexes, he snatched the tiny owl from the air, being careful not to hurt him. As soon as Harry removed the letter Pig shot into the air again, twittering madly and flying in circles around the room. Hedwig watched for a moment, then resolutely turned her back.
Harry opened the parchment to see a letter from Ron, with even messier handwriting than usual. It looked like the letter was written in a hurry.
There was an attack at the Burrow. Dumbledore's moving everyone. Mum and Dad are going to headquarters, but we can't all go, so the Twins are going to stay with Lee Jordan, I'm going to Hermione's, and Ginny's going to stay with you. Dad'll be there soon.
Harry stared at the parchment for a few seconds in consternation. Words repeatedly flashed before his mind's eye. Ginny's going to stay with you. He jumped from his chair and bolted downstairs, hoping the Dursleys wouldn't explode when he told them.
He found Aunt Petunia in the kitchen, washing the dishes from lunch. Uncle Vernon and Dudley were out.
'Aunt Petunia!' Harry gasped, out of breath.
'What is it this time?' she snapped, glaring at him.
'There's been an attack. One of my friend's houses,' Harry said quickly. 'She needs to stay here for a while.'
Aunt Petunia stared at him incredulously for a moment. She was about to say something when a large barn owl swept through the open kitchen window, dropped a letter bearing the Hogwart's seal into her hands, and left again.
Petunia opened the letter gingerly, as if she expected it to explode. She read the contents of the letter, and her eyes widened. Finally, she sighed.
'Very well then,' Petunia threw the letter into the trash. 'She can stay, so long as she understands the rules and doesn't mention that…abnormality while under this roof.'
'Thanks!' Harry raced back upstairs and was halfway through scribbling a note to Ron when the front doorbell chimed. Harry raced back out of his room yelling, 'I'll get it!'
He opened the front door to find Mr. Weasley and Ginny, both wearing Muggle clothes. Ginny was crying into her father's shoulder.
'Harry, good to see you,' Mr. Weasley said gravely, giving Ginny a small push in the back to start her moving. She stumbled a little as she entered the house, and Harry reached out to steady her.
'Hi Harry,' she said weakly, finally looking up. Her eyes were red and puffy, and her brilliant red hair was a mess. Suddenly she started sobbing again and Harry drew her into a hug. She clung to him, her face pressed into his shoulder as she cried.
'Charlie was the only one home. He's in St. Mungo's now, but they don't know if he'll make it.' Mr. Weasley said in a low voice as they climbed the stairs, made awkward because Ginny wouldn't let go of Harry. He solved the problem by simply picking her up. She tensed briefly, then relaxed as he carried her up the stairs.
Harry kicked his door open, strode over to his bed, and lay Ginny down. She curled up into a ball, still shaking slightly.
Mr. Weasley pulled a miniature trunk from his pocket and enlarged it, setting it on the ground near Harry's own. He looked around the room curiously, but his eyes were strangely dead. He pointed his wand at the bed and muttered a duplication charm, and another bed appeared beside the original.
'I have to go,' he said finally to Harry. 'All the order members are meeting at headquarters.' He sighed and passed one hand over his eyes, looking older than Harry had ever seen him. He looked like he was going to speak, but then sighed and Disapparated with a sharp crack.
Harry looked down at the girl sobbing on his bed, unsure what he should do. True, he and Ginny had become friends during last year, but not to the same level as he, Ron and Hermione. He wasn't entirely sure if she would welcome any attempt at comforting.
Finally deciding to be brave, he sat on the bed beside her. 'Ginny?' he said gently, placing one hand on her shoulder.
Ginny looked up at him, biting her bottom lip. 'I'm sorry,' she whispered.
Without thinking, he drew her into another hug. She shook slightly in his arms, and he patted her back awkwardly. They sat there in silence for some time until the door was thrown open.
'Boy!' Uncle Vernon filled the doorway, his face livid. He pointed one beefy hand at Ginny, looking disdainfully at her slightly threadbare clothes. 'She is not staying here,' he growled.
Harry stood defiantly. 'She has no where else to go,' he said in a deadly quiet voice, silently amazed at himself for standing up to his uncle in this way. 'Her house was destroyed, her brother is in St. Mungo's, and her parents are fighting in a war!' The last few words were yelled so loud that Vernon glanced at the window as if expecting to see someone there peering in, listening to their conversation.
Vernon's face was alternating between dark red and a shade of purple. Finally he said, 'What is this gibberish?'
'What gibberish was that?' Harry asked coldly.
'This…St. Mangoes place.'
'St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries,' Harry said shortly. 'It's a wizard hospital.'
Vernon's face was, by now, the colour of a ripe beetroot.
'DO NOT MENTION YOUR ABNORMALITY IN THIS HOUSE!' he roared, backhanding Harry across the mouth. Hedwig hooted in indignation, rattling the bars of her cage as Harry crashed into the desk and sprawled on the floor. Something rolled from the desk and landed in his lap. He looked down in a daze to see his wand.
'Leave him alone,' Ginny said in a shaky voice. She stood, facing Vernon bravely as his face turned even darker.
'HOW DARE YOU!' he screamed, lifting his hand to hit her.
Suddenly Harry was on his feet, wand in hand. 'Touch her and you will not live to see another day, Vernon Dursley,' he said in a deadly voice. Vernon froze; his hand ready to hit Ginny, as his eyes darted to the wand held rock steady in Harry's hand. Harry could almost see the wheels turning in his head.
'You can't do anything during the holidays,' Vernon said finally, lowering his hand.
'Wrong,' Harry said, still in that chilling quiet voice. 'I can do anything, and I will. Sure I'll go to Azkaban, but it would be worth it.'
Vernon looked from the wand to Harry's emerald eyes, and apparently didn't like what he saw. His eye twitched, and then he turned and stormed from the room. 'Don't expect us to feed her!' he yelled as he slammed the door.
'I wasn't,' Harry muttered to himself, then turned to Ginny, who was watching him through eyes still red from crying.
'Thank you,' she said finally, her eyes downcast.
'That's alright,' Harry sighed, passing a hand over his eyes in an unconscious duplication of Mr. Weasley. 'My uncle is a fat git. My aunt isn't quite so bad.'
They stood there awkwardly for a moment before Pig, whom Harry had completely forgotten about, broke the tension by launching from his place atop Harry's cupboard and circling Ginny's head, twittering madly. Ginny giggled, a sad sound that made Harry's stomach do a strange sort of back flip.
'Hi Pigwidgeon,' Ginny said, raising her hand with one finger outstretched. The tiny owl came to rest on her finger, still hooting in excitement. He nibbled her finger before shooting into the air again, unable to contain himself.
'Well,' Harry said gloomily as he settled into the desk chair again, 'welcome to my world.'
Ginny looked around and suddenly blushed, realising they were expected to share the room.
'Harry?' He looked up. 'Is there somewhere I can, you know, change?' They both blushed furiously, neither looking the other in the eye. 'I didn't get much sleep last night,' she finished lamely.
'Third door on the right,' he said, quickly burying his face in a book to hide his embarrassment, not noticing that he was holding said book upside down.
'Thank you,' Ginny said, her face now a similar colour to her hair, as she drew some nightclothes from her trunk and dashed out of the room into the hall.
Harry groaned and let his head hit the table with a solid thunk.
A/N: As always, please review and tell me what you think. If you couldn't figure it out, this fic is strictly H/G and R/Hr. If you don't like these pairings (or are bored to death with them), then know that this story is NOT a romance, and the amount of fluff will be minimal. There is a storyline, and that takes precedence.