Disclaimer: All things Harry Potter belong to J K Rowling and the Powers That Be.
Summary: 6th year fic – post OotP. What happens when a terrible accident takes away the hope of the wizarding world? With Harry Potter out of the picture, Voldemort has a free reign. But a twist of fate gives Harry a second chance to fulfill his destiny and say goodbye to those he left behind.
A Second Chance
Chapter One – Visiting Hermione
As Harry set down his quill and read over the complicated essay he had been writing, he let out a sigh of frustration. Ever since the start of the summer, he had been locked in his tiny room in Privet Drive with nothing to do except complete his summer homework. After six whole weeks, he still hadn't finished it. Charms had been easy, as had Transfiguration, but Potions had him stumped. He didn't even know why he was bothering with it. After all, what were the chances he had passed his Potions OWL with an 'O'? Snape wouldn't accept anything less for his NEWT class, and Harry knew he would never make an exception for the 'Famous Harry Potter', even if he did want to be an Auror. After Harry had violated his Potions Master's pensieve, the man had been even colder to the boy.
Over the course of the summer, Harry himself had become increasingly bitter. Even six weeks on, the pain of what he had dubbed 'the Department of Mysteries incident' hadn't dissipated at all. The loss of Sirius left a gaping hole in his soul, and he didn't know how he would even get past it. When he wasn't near tears, he felt a raging anger within himself. Anger at the world, for conspiring against him. Anger at Dumbledore for keeping him in the dark for so long about so many things. Anger at Voldemort for existing. Anger at himself for causing it all to happen…
It was all becoming a little too much for Harry to handle. He had had too much pressure on him for too long, and all he wanted now was for it to be over. He had spent as much time as he could this summer practicing his occlumency and studying his schoolbooks. Granted being locked in his room left him with little else to do, but still he was making an effort. He was nowhere near good enough to destroy the self proclaimed Dark Lord, but he was determined not to make it drag on for too much longer. He wanted his life back. He wanted to be free to make his own decisions and mistakes without worrying about what impact it would have on the wizarding world as a whole.
Putting his incomplete Potions essay away, Harry flopped down on his bed with a sigh. He was bored. Very bored. The Dursleys had ignored him ever since he arrived back at Privet Drive, and despite the warnings from Moody and Lupin, they hadn't made an extra effort to make his stay comfortable. He was let out of his room three times a day to use the bathroom, and his meals were all shoved through the cat flap in the bottom of his door. Every two days, Harry was expected to send a letter to his 'freak friends', telling them he was fine and being treated well. Harry readily agreed to this condition. While he wasn't having the best summer ever, he was at least being fed, and being locked in his room meant that he didn't have to do any chores.
Knowing he wouldn't get any more done that night, Harry drifted into a restless sleep, plagued by dreams of luminous scarlet eyes and a black vale.
The next morning, Harry's slumber was disturbed by a loud banging on his door. As he slowly opened his eyes, blinking them rapidly in an effort to clear the fuzziness from his brain, he made out the irate voice of his Uncle yelling at him.
" Boy! Get your lazy behind out of that bed. I need to talk to you! Are you listening to me? I mean NOW!"
With a grunt of acknowledgement, Harry rolled out of his bed and onto the floor with a loud thump. Satisfied that his nephew was up, Vernon unlocked the padlocks on the outside of Harry's door and made his way back downstairs. The boy in question groaned when he spotted the time on his clock. Eight o'clock. Reluctantly, he pulled his crumpled clothes on and headed for the bathroom. Ten minutes later, he entered the living room and stood to one side, waiting to be acknowledged. After a few minutes, Vernon turned his beady glare on his nephew and gestured to a rickety stool in the corner of the room.
" Sit!" he demanded, waiting for Harry to comply before continuing.
" We need you to write to those freak friends of yours," he said with a sneer.
" Why, Uncle Vernon," Harry asked, confused. Normally, his family wouldn't mention his friends unless they absolutely had to.
" We need you out of this house for the rest of the summer. You need to tell them to collect you."
" Why do you need me to leave?" Harry asked, alarmed. He had been told that he would have to spend the holidays with the Dursleys, even if he wanted to leave. He didn't know if Dumbledore would agree for him to leave Privet Drive two weeks early.
" Your Aunt Marge is ill," Vernon told him, " We're going to visit her. After what happened the last time you saw her, we don't want you to come with us. You'd probably finish her off with some of your hocus pocus. You'll have to find somewhere else to go."
" I can't leave!" Harry protested, " Dumbledore…"
" I don't care what that crackpot said!" Vernon growled, his face turning an interesting shade of magenta, " You're going, whether you like it or not."
Harry remained silent; knowing there was nothing he could do to change his uncle's mind. He was one of the most stubborn people Harry knew.
" Alright," he conceded, finally, " I'll ask them."
" Good. Now, back to your room, you're cluttering the place up."
Harry dragged himself to his feet and headed back to his room, wondering what he was going to do. If he wasn't allowed to go to the Weasley's or Grimmauld Place, he didn't know what he would do.
When he got to his room, he pulled out one of his last sheets of parchment and began to write a letter to Ron. He would have written to Dumbledore, but he was still angry with the elderly headmaster. Anything he said to his redheaded friend would probably be passed on to the old coot anyway. Dipping his rather chewed quill into his ink, he began to write.
I know I only wrote to you yesterday, but something's come up. My Uncle Vernon just told me that I have to leave because the family's going to visit Aunt Marge. Remember what happened the last time I saw her? I don't think she'd appreciate being blown up again. Anyway, is there any chance I could come and stay for the last two weeks? I hate to ask, but I'm getting kicked out either way.
Hope to hear from you soon,
Two days later, Harry was distracted from his Potions essay once more by the arrival of Hedwig at his bedroom window. After opening his window and letting her in, he eagerly removed the letter she was carrying from her leg. Ripping it open, he scanned the page, his heart sinking as he read.
Sorry mate, but you can't come here. Mum asked Dumbledore and he reckons you can't come to the wizarding world, because it's too dangerous, what with You-Know-Who running around. I think your best bet would be asking Hermione. Dumbledore says the Muggle world would be best, as You-Know-Who probably wouldn't think to look there. Her house has lots of wards on it as well. McGonagall and Flitwick have spent most of the summer warding the homes of Muggleborns, just in case.
Sorry about that, mate.
With a sigh, Harry moved his incomplete essay out of the way and pulled out a sheet of lined Muggle paper and a ball point pen, deciding he had best write to Hermione.
I hate to do this, but can I come and stay with you for the last two weeks of the holidays? Please? Uncle Vernon's kicking me out because the Dursleys are going to visit Aunt Marge, who's ill. I already asked Ron, but apparently Dumbledore won't let me stay in the wizarding world. Ron suggested asking you. I hate to ask, but I've got no other choice, unless you can come up with a better idea.
As soon as it was finished, he tied it to Hedwig's leg, gave her an owl treat, and sent her on her way. The Dursleys were due to leave the next day, so he hoped Hermione would reply soon, and in the positive.
Much to Harry's relief, he received a reply from Hermione just before he went to bed that night. His heart started to thud rapidly in his chest when he first saw Hedwig soaring in his window. If Hermione said 'no', he didn't know what he would do. As he quickly read the letter, he felt a weight lift from his heart.
Of course you can visit! I would never see you out on the street, and neither would my parents. We'll be there to pick you up at nine tomorrow morning. See you then!
With a grin, Harry threw the letter onto his bed and began the short process of packing his trunk. As he did so, he noted that he needed to go to Diagon Alley in the none too distant future. He was out of parchment, and he needed to pick up his new schoolbooks for the year. He also wanted to get some extra books, especially on Defence Against the Dark Arts and duelling. If he wanted to defeat Voldemort, he would have to be prepared.
The next morning, Harry was once again awoken bright and early by a pounding on his door.
" Boy! I want you out of this room in ten minutes!"
Harry rolled out of bed reluctantly, and pulled a clean set of clothes on. After a quick trip to the bathroom, he headed back to his bedroom and took one final look around before dragging his heavy trunk downstairs and dumping it in the hallway. Sitting down on it, he obediently waited for Hermione and her family to turn up. As soon as Vernon noticed him, he stormed over to his nephew, waving one meaty finger in front of Harry's face.
" Boy, I expect you'll be leaving soon?"
" Yes, Uncle Vernon," Harry said with a sigh.
" Good. How are the freaks getting here? If they think they're coming through the fireplace again, they have another thing coming," the large Muggle spat.
" You don't have to worry about that, Uncle Vernon," Harry told him, " Hermione's parents are dentists."
" Dentists?" Vernon asked in disbelief, " I didn't know you freaks had dentists!"
" Hermione's parents are…normal people. She's the only witch in the family."
" What have I said about mentioning that nonsense in my house?!" the obese man bellowed. Harry winced, but didn't reply. After grumbling a little, Vernon stormed off to the kitchen for his breakfast, leaving Harry sitting alone in the hallway.
Harry sat there for what seemed like hours before he finally heard the doorbell play its usual tacky tune. Leaping to his feet, he yanked the front door open and grinned at the girl on his doorstep.
" Hermione! It's great to see you!" he said as she pulled him into a hug.
" It's great to see you too, Harry. I'm sorry you're getting kicked out."
" I'm not. Anything to get out of Privet Drive quicker. You know how much I hate it here," Harry said sheepishly. Hermione smiled back at him, but her grin began to disappear slowly. Turning around, Harry spotted the Dursleys heading in their direction.
" So, this is your…friend, I take it," Petunia sniffed.
" Yes, Aunt Petunia, this is Hermione. Her parents are dentists," the young wizard replied. He thought it best to mention that, as it may gain Hermione some points with the bony woman. Dentistry, after all, was a nice, normal profession.
" Charmed," Petunia sneered. Harry then noticed Dudley hiding behind his mother, leering rudely at Hermione. With a frown, Harry moved to block his cousin's view of the young woman on his doorstep. After a few moments of awkward silence, Harry picked up the end of his trunk and turned to his friend.
" Shall we go, then?" he asked. Hermione nodded and took the other end of the trunk. As soon as the pair was out of the house, the front door was slammed loudly behind them.
" Charming relatives you have there," Hermione commented.
" Tell me about it," Harry muttered, helping the girl to heave the trunk into the back of the car. He could just imagine the looks on the Dursleys' faces if they were looking through the window and saw that Harry's friend's parents owned an Aston Martin. As soon as he was seated in the back of the car, he greeted Hermione's parents.
" Hello, Mr. Granger, Mrs. Granger, thank you for letting me stay, especially on such short notice."
" It's our pleasure, dear," Mrs. Granger said with a smile, " It'll be nice to get to know one of our Hermione's friends a little better. We're also looking forward to having another magical person in the house. We wanted to know what you could tell us about these wards around our house…"
Harry smiled inwardly at Hermione's mother's interest in the wizarding world. It reminded him of Mr. Weasley and his fascination with all things Muggle. He was looking forward to the last two weeks of the summer holidays, but little did he know the disaster that was to come…