Disclaimer: I own nothing; it all belongs to J.K.Rowling. I'm just borrowing the characters to play with for a while. This is for pleasure only, no profit is being made, and no copyright infringement is intended.

Note: This story is the seventh year sequel to Harry Potter and the Power of Emotion. I strongly suggest you read that one first, as this picks up right where that one left off. So, without further ado, buckle your seatbelts, it's going to be a rough ride…

Chapter One

Alone Again

Harry Potter stared miserably out the window of his uncle's luxury sedan as it drove down the highway towards Little Winging. The positive energy and cheerfulness he'd felt saying good bye to his friends rapidly dissipated under the Dursleys' hateful glares. The heat he'd felt upon exiting the Hogwart's Express continued unmercifully. He was permanently hot and sticky, adding to his distemper.

Harry was on summer break after experiencing a particularly difficult end of term. He and his best friend, Ron, had been kidnapped and held captive for over a week by the fanatical followers of Lord Voldemort. During that time, Harry had been tortured and abused by Death Eaters, and left in a cell with a Dementor, before ultimately battling against the Dark Lord himself. He'd barely escaped with his life, and the experience had left him drained of both his physical strength and his magical energy, not to mention the psychological trauma. He'd been sent home to recuperate under the watchful eye of the Order of the Phoenix.

The ride home was very similar to the previous year, with Aunt Petunia ranting about the public scene in the train station and the disgraceful company Harry kept. Uncle Vernon nodded his head at her tirade, sporadically throwing in his own complaints. Only Dudley had refrained from commenting, seeming to shrink to his own side of the car in an effort to keep as much distance as possible between himself and Harry. Shrinking into anything was not an easy feat for Dudley, and Harry was somewhat amused by his efforts. His eyes were wide, and he jumped if Harry so much as shifted his position. Harry wondered if the Memory Charm that had been placed on Dudley after the attack last Christmas was somehow faulty. Dudley seemed far more intimidated by Harry than he'd ever been before.

They were about halfway to Surrey when Aunt Petunia let loose a tirade against Bill. "Just who does he think he is? Assuming he can tell us who to allow in and out of our own home. I will not have anyone looking like…like…like a gigolo entering my home. What will people think? Why doesn't he get a decent haircut and at least try to appear respectable? And that earring! Absolutely not. I'm telling you right now, you will tell him to look normal before he's allowed to call. And when he's visiting, he will remain in your room. I don't want to have to see either of you, and I won't tolerate a mess in the den."

Uncle Vernon, who appeared to be waiting for the chance to have a go at Harry, joined his wife's fury. "You are even more stupid than I always thought you were if you think we are going to leave our own home to go spend time with even more freaks like you. I'm telling you, boy, I won't have it. You tell that pansy that if he's going to be coming over, he has to put on normal clothes, cover that hair and NO earring. What kind of man wears an earring? Not one I'll have in my home, I'm telling you. I don't want to see him any more than I want to see you, so stay in the room, or you'll be locked in. And if he expects to eat, he'll have to bring his own. I won't be responsible for feeding any more freeloaders."

Harry held his tongue, although he wanted to let loose a few choice words of his own. He had to stay with them until he turned seventeen, and that was only about six weeks away. He could do it. He'd put up with them and their threats and complaints for years; he couldn't break now that the end was in sight. He did think that Aunt Petunia calling Bill a 'gigolo' was rather funny.

"Yes, Uncle Vernon," he mumbled, biting hard on the inside of his cheek. He felt truly miserable, and their antagonizing him wasn't helping. That little bit of magic he'd performed on the train, playing a joke on Ron, had really wiped him out and left him feeling so discouraged. He'd put up with so much abuse from the Dursleys over the years, but he'd always relied on his own willpower. Somehow, he'd always managed to get through it. Now, he just wanted to curl up in a ball and let someone else solve things for a while. He hated the tired, restless feeling and wished it would hurry up and pass. The heat certainly wasn't helping. It drained what little energy he had, and made his shirt stick to his back uncomfortably.

When they arrived at number four Privet Drive, Aunt Petunia had stormed into the house without another word, her head held haughtily in the air. Uncle Vernon had turned towards Harry, who was slowly pulling himself out of the car, using the door for support. "Take that trunk and the rest of your things up to your room quickly, before anyone sees any of your abnormality. If you don't move quickly, I'll lock the rest under the stairs until we're rid of you." He smirked without any warmth, and stomped after Aunt Petunia.

Harry sighed, looking at the heavy trunk and Hedwig's cage. He knew he didn't have the strength to lug them up the stairs. Dudley stood there, watching him for a moment, a strange expression on his face.

"What?" Harry asked, his shoulders sagging, expecting another taunt.

Dudley hesitated a moment, then shook his head and waddled in after his parents. Harry had opened Hedwig's cage and let her loose. "You can fly up to the window yourself, can't you, girl? I'll open it as soon as I get there."

Hedwig flew out gracefully, cuffing Harry on the side of his head affectionately as she did. Harry put the cage on the ground and attempted to move the trunk. After several failed attempts – and using up most of his remaining energy – Harry finally gave up and leaned heavily against the boot of the car. He wondered if Dobby had arrived yet. Maybe he could ask him for some help levitating the trunk. Harry discarded the idea as quickly as it came. Asking Dobby for anything was always risky – he tended to get over-excited – and he didn't want to see the Dursleys' reaction if they witnessed his things flying at top speed through the house.

He flipped open the trunk and dug out his Invisibility cloak, the Marauder's map, his photo albums, and a few other private things, and decided he'd just have to make a few trips to get what he absolutely needed up the stairs. Taking a deep breath, he pushed himself off the car and took a few shaky steps toward the house. He was exhausted, and his legs felt like someone had hit him with a powerful Jelly-Legs Curse. He could feel the sweat rolling down his back, and he swayed on his feet as the world began swimming.

Suddenly, he felt a firm grip on his arm, jerking him back to awareness. He momentarily flashed on a cold, dark cell as a feeling of complete helplessness washed over him. Breathing deeply and trying to orient himself to where he was, he stared in confusion at the angry face of Bill Weasley. Blinking in rapid succession, Harry just looked at Bill, waiting for him to speak. The eldest Weasley brother swore beneath his breath and flung Harry's arm over his shoulder. He wrapped his arm around Harry's waist and jerked his wand towards the trunk. Harry heard him mutter both a Confundus and a Levitation Charm so the trunk, with Hedwig's cage perched on top, followed them into the house. The Confundus Charm would ensure that any of Aunt Petunia's nosy friends who happened to be peering out their windows would see nothing out of the ordinary.

"Damn it, Harry," Bill snarled. "I thought I'd take a walk by and see that you'd arrived safely. It's a good thing I did. Why didn't anybody help you with this trunk?"

Harry would have laughed if he wasn't been so tired. As if the Dursleys would willing help him with anything. Bill had no idea with whom he was dealing. Harry was embarrassed that he was leaning so heavily on Bill, but he couldn't help it. "They aren't going to like this," he said, indicating the floating trunk with a jerk of his head.

"I don't give a damn what they're going to like. It's high time we had a discussion and set some ground rules with your relatives," Bill snapped. "Obviously, our general warnings haven't made much of an impact."

He wanted to argue with Bill and tell him he'd only make it worse, but he knew Bill had the best of intentions. He was saved further consideration as they entered the front door; Aunt Petunia promptly screamed at seeing the floating trunk, startling Bill and causing him to lose his concentration. The trunk fell to the ground with a loud thud.

"What do you think you are doing?" Aunt Petunia screeched. "It's the middle of the day; anyone could have seen you. How dare you?" Her pale skin had a rosy stain, and her long neck was stretched full out. It was a look she reserved for when she was her most furious.

Bill, however, didn't seem cowed, at all. He'd turned almost lazily to face her, but Harry could see the telltale red stain on his Weasley ears revealing his anger. "Now, Mrs. Dursley, I know you have been informed that Harry was just released from hospital yesterday and would require some assistance. It must be this dreadful heat that made it slip your mind. I apologize for using magic in your home; I've been told you don't approve. I'll make certain to control myself in the future. Of course, I'm certain you realize it was the best way to aid Harry inside. As long as he's doing okay, I don't see any reason I'll need to use any of my more…special abilities again." He let his words, and the underlying threat, lie in the open.

Aunt Petunia paled, but she was angry enough not to flee. "See that you don't. I won't have my home, or anyone in it, the subject of neighborhood gossips. If you insist on traipsing in here at all hours, use the back door and try to be inconspicuous."

"Mrs. Dursley, if you would merely agree to accompany your nephew to a safer location for a few weeks, you would have no reason to fear what the neighbors might see."

"I won't have a reason to fear it when you take him out of here and never return. I'll celebrate the day when he, and all of you, are out of our lives for good. I will not be forced from my home and into the company of…of….of freaks just for the sake of him." Her lip curled as if Harry were something extremely unpleasant stuck on the bottom of her shoe.

Bill's lips thinned until they nearly disappeared from his face. "Very well. You," he snapped, pointing at Dudley, "help carry that trunk upstairs so I won't offend your mother's delicate sensibilities with the use of any more magic."

Dudley hesitated for an instant before grasping the heavy trunk and dragging it up towards Harry's room. Bill ignored Aunt Petunia's hiss at his use of the word 'magic,' and nearly had to carry Harry up the stairs to his bedroom. Dudley had entered the room and dropped the trunk in the center of the floor, then turned to watch as Bill followed with Harry.

Harry noticed Bill staring at all of the locks on the outside of his bedroom door; Bill's brow creased as his lips once again formed a very thin line before disappearing completely. His eyes scanned the small room, taking in the stacks of Dudley's old toys and discarded items against the wall, the rickety, old bed with its threadbare coverlet, the faded and torn throw rug on the floor. The paint on the walls was chipped, and the desk looked as if it would collapse if anything were placed upon it. None of the drawers closed right; the runners had been broken long ago.

Harry shifted uncomfortably at having Bill in his room. His obvious disapproval was making Harry feel ashamed, and he didn't want to meet the older man's eyes. Although he was grateful for the assistance, he wanted nothing more than to lie down and sleep until he felt better. He was ready for Bill to take his leave, but didn't want to be rude. Harry needed to use the loo, but wasn't certain if he could make it there on his own. He hated showing weakness and was determined not to let Bill see any more of it from him. This was Ginny's oldest brother, and she obviously admired him very much. Harry didn't want to appear as anything less than competent in Bill's eyes.

"Come on, Harry. Why don't you change into something cooler, and then you can have a kip. I'm going to speak with your aunt, but I'll be back tomorrow," Bill said, handing Harry a T-shirt from his trunk.

Harry peeled off his sticky shirt and heard Dudley's sharp intake of breath; Harry had forgotten he was still there. He looked over to see Dudley staring in revulsion at Harry's bare chest. Confused, he followed his cousin's gaze and realized that Dudley was staring at the vivid bruises still marring his torso. Harry turned his back to Dudley and quickly covered up with the T-shirt.

Bill wasn't about to let it go so easily. "You can see that we weren't joking about Harry's injuries. He's had a rough time of it; it would be decent of you to help him out on occasion."

Dudley's mouth opened in what looked to be an angry retort, but instead, he clamped it shut and stormed out of the room. As soon as the door closed behind him, Dobby appeared in the room, as if he'd been waiting for Dudley to leave.

"Harry Potter!" he squealed, wrapping himself around Harry's legs and causing him to stumble to the bed. "Dobby is so happy to be here. We is goings to be having a wonderful summer together, Harry Potter, sir. Yes we is. Dobby is so pleased to be given the job of taking care of Harry Potter."

Dobby pulled several phials of various potions from his sack. "Dobby has made his sleeping arrangements, and all you need be doing when you needs me is saying Dobby's name." He handed Harry a phial, and Harry gulped the contents without even asking what it was. He'd taken too many of them in recent days to question them all any more.

"All right, Dobby," Bill said, smiling at the exuberant house-elf. "You seem to have things well enough in hand. I'm going to go downstairs and have a talk with Harry's aunt. You make certain this door stays shut and don't let anyone in here for the remainder of the night. Let Harry have a lie-in tomorrow if he wants."

"Yes, sir, Mr. Wheezy, sir. Dobby will not let any of Mr. Harry Potter's nasty relatives in. He'll be sleeping soundly all night."

Dobby had handed Harry a pair of pyjama bottoms, and Harry was just tying the drawstring when a thought occurred to him. Last year, Uncle Vernon had been at the end of his rope with Harry's nightmares. After the events at Malfoy Manor, Harry's nights had been far from peaceful. In fact, they'd been rather violent…he shuddered and forced his mind away from the memories.

"Bill," he asked tentatively, "would you, er…mind, um…putting a Silencing Charm on my room?"

Bill looked at Harry sharply. "Beg pardon?"

Harry colored and looked at the floor. "Er…sometimes Hedwig makes noise during the night, and it wakes my uncle."

Harry chanced a quick glance at Bill and saw him looking back at Harry with a very thoughtful expression. Nodding his acquiescence, he cast the charm on the door to Harry's room.

"Thanks," Harry muttered.

"Harry," Bill said, "if you need anything else – a Dreamless Sleep Potion, perhaps – just let me know, and I'll try to arrange one for you."

Harry's face colored brilliantly in shame. "Thanks; that might be a good idea," he said quietly, not daring to look at Bill again.

Bill put a hand on Harry's shoulder. "Are you going to be all right here?"

Dobby answered for Harry. "Oh, we is going to be fine. Harry Potter has a full bladder, but as soon as we takes care of that, he's going to be going to bed."

"Sweet Merlin," Harry cursed under his breath, coloring even more deeply.

Bill chuckled at Harry's obvious discomfort with Dobby's outspoken nature. His modesty was about to butt heads with Dobby's enthusiasm, and Bill didn't think poor Harry's dignity stood a chance. "Be certain to help him with that, Dobby, no matter how much he protests. He's nowhere near as well as he's going to tell you he is, so keep a close eye on him. Harry, I'll return in the morning, and we can begin our research."

Bill left Harry alone with an over-enthused Dobby. The rest of the evening was a blur to him, and he was certain later that he'd just blocked the memory. Harry had struggled to get up and off the bed to use the loo, until Dobby volunteered to hold a cup for him as a bedpan. Harry thought he was going to die of embarrassment before Voldemort ever got to him again. Declining politely, he dragged himself out of the bed and clutched the wall for support. Despite his protests and bruised ego, Harry was forced to lean on Dobby, as he was guided to the bathroom. The elf refused to allow him his privacy even in the loo itself. Harry had spent enough time in the hospital wing at Hogwarts to know he should simply leave his dignity at the door, but, somehow, with Dobby acting as nursemaid, it seemed ten times worse than Madam Pomfrey's quick, no-nonsense attitude. Dobby liked to talk about everything he was doing. Between the Dursleys' contempt and Dobby's exuberance, this summer was going to be an endless test of his patience.

Harry collapsed on his bed and was asleep before his head hit the pillow. He woke only once during the night, which actually made for a good night for him, but he'd panicked slightly at the pitch-black quietness of the room. When he managed to control his breathing and uncurl himself from a fetal position, he flicked on the lamp that sat on his dresser, looking around for Dobby. The elf was no where in sight, but Harry was certain that if he called, Dobby would be there. He'd have to ask him where he slept. He pulled a letter that had arrived with Errol before he went to bed off his desk. Ginny's note was brief, merely letting him know they'd arrived safely at Grimmauld Place, and she missed him already. He clutched the letter in his hand as he lay back down and tried to steady his breathing. He willed his body to stop trembling, and, eventually, he dozed.

He awoke the next day to find bright sunlight streaming in through his window. He knew by the heat and intensity of the light that it was much later than he was usually allowed to sleep when at Privet Drive. He fumbled for his glasses and was startled when someone handed them to him. He nearly jumped off the bed in alarm, grasping for his wand.

"Morning, you lazy git, take it easy," Bill said, placing a hand on Harry's shoulder. "How do you feel?"

Harry sat up and blearily looked around. "Bill? What are you doing here?"

"I told you I'd be by today to work on these texts," he said, waving his arm over the stacks of books piled high on Harry's desk. "Emmeline is working on them at Grimmauld Place, as well. We figure that between the two of us, we can make some headway. Dumbledore has initiated several new Order members; one of them is a historian for the Ministry. Her name is Jacqueline McClaggan, and she's working with us, as well. I think her knowledge will prove invaluable in speeding up this search."

"What time is it?" Harry asked, wiping the remains of sleep from his eyes.

"Nearly noon," Bill replied. Looking up and speaking to the room in general, he said, "Dobby, he's awake."

Harry was floored. Never in his life had he been allowed to sleep that late, not even when he'd had pneumonia as a kid. "Noon! How come Aunt Petunia didn't wake me up?"

"Good morning, Harry Potter," Dobby shouted as he appeared in front of him and began laying things out on the desk. "Dobby was beginning to worry you'd sleep through another dose of your potions. Mister Wheezy, here, said to let you sleep, but Dobby was worried."

Dobby looked as if he were looking for something to punish himself with, so Harry grabbed his arm and tried to distract him. "The potions, Dobby. I think I should take them."

"Right," Dobby squealed, handing Harry the first in a series of phials. "What would Harry Potter be wanting for breakfast? Or would he prefer lunch?"

Harry was startled to realize that he was actually hungry. He couldn't even remember the last time he'd felt hunger. "Erm…how about a sandwich," he told Dobby.

Dobby beamed with pleasure at being asked to do something for Harry. "Yes, Mr. Harry Potter, sir. Right away." He handed Harry the last of the phials and Disapparated with a "pop."

Harry grimaced at the taste, but downed the potion, anyway. He was certain Snape purposely made all the potions more horrible-tasting than they needed to be. He caught Bill watching him with an intent gaze and couldn't help the disgruntled feeling that rose within him. He hated the fact that the Order still thought he needed a minder.

"How are you feeling today? Did the lie-in help? Did you sleep all right?" Bill asked, firing the questions off in rapid succession.

"I'm fine," Harry snapped, somewhat more harshly than he intended. Bill just raised his eyebrows. "I'm sorry…it's just…"

"It's just that you're not feeling fine, and you're annoyed by it," Bill said, casually leaning back against the door.

"Yeah," Harry said, sighing, surprised by Bill's intuition.

"Harry, you were just released from hospital yesterday, after some fairly hefty injuries. You've been through a lot; you're allowed some time to heal. Now, let's try this again; how was your night?"

Harry smiled wearily, knowing he wasn't getting off the hook. "It was good; I think the trip home just wiped me out."

"The light was on when I got here; I was worried you had a rough night."

Harry flushed as he remembered waking up during the night; Ginny's crumpled -up letter was still in the bed with him. He didn't know what was wrong with him; he'd lived in a dark cupboard for years and never had a problem with the dark. Ever since he woke up in the hospital wing, he'd had an irrational desire to keep a light burning. It somehow kept the brutal memories of that cell at bay. That's all he needed – the Daily Prophet to get wind of the fact that the Boy-Who-Lived was afraid of the dark. He couldn't meet Bill's eyes, and he stared intently at the cover on his bed. "Oh, I woke up and looked for Dobby. I must have fallen back to sleep before I put it out again."

To Harry's eternal relief, Bill seemed to accept this without a problem. Harry quickly went for a shower, and his mouth nearly hit the floor when he returned to his room. He had to stop and go back out before coming back in to make certain his eyes weren't playing a trick on him. While he'd showered, Bill had transformed his bedroom into a virtual palace. He'd used magic to expand the size and transfigured everything into a replica of the boys' dormitory in Gryffindor tower. The red and gold colors gleamed in the sun, and all Dudley's old junk was gone. The room looked outfitted for a king; Aunt Petunia was going to have kittens.

"Wh— What did you do?"

A wide smile broke out across Bill's face. "It's time your room reflected more of your own personality, Harry. It'll make being stuck here not so bad. I didn't know your favorite color, so I just used Gryffindor colors. I can change it if you'd prefer something else."

Harry barely heard him as he stared around the room in wonder. "No…I like red," he whispered in awe. He ran a hand along the rich texture of the comforter. Magic or no, Aunt Petunia would never let him keep things that were nicer than what Dudley had. He didn't tell Bill that, though.

The following week proved to be one of the most difficult Harry had ever experienced on Privet Drive. Although his health was improving, it wasn't happening nearly as quickly as he would prefer. Dobby hovered incessantly, filling Harry with both food and potions. He didn't even ask where he was getting all the food, but suspected it was right from Hogwarts. Bill stopped by every day and scoured over the texts in the afternoon, when Harry would take a nap. His battle with the Dursleys had grown into an all-out war. It had started when Bill transfigured one of the bushes on the Dursleys' front lawn, near the street, to transform into full, blazing fall colors. It would have been gorgeous in October and a source of pride for Aunt Petunia. In late June, however, with all the neighbors commenting and pointing it out in fascination, Aunt Petunia was beside herself.

She knew Bill was responsible, and the abnormality was driving her insane. Bill continued with his torment, causing weeds to sprout and take over her garden, which had always been Aunt Petunia's masterpiece. Uncle Vernon's grass would grow seemingly overnight and remained long and unkempt, no matter how many times Uncle Vernon forced Harry to mow it. The paint on the fence surrounding the house began to chip and flake; no amount of touch ups could repair the damage. The final straw for Uncle Vernon came in the form of mud spattering on his car, a car he'd always kept immaculate.

He told Harry to wash the mud off one evening when he returned from work, which Harry did. An hour later, the car was covered in even more mud. The more it was washed, the more mud appeared. All the Dursleys' neighbors began staring at them strangely, wondering about the new, slovenly attitude of a family who had always maintained a neat and tidy appearance.

Uncle Vernon's face had taken on a permanent puce tone, and he stayed away at work for longer and longer hours. Aunt Petunia had long since got over her intimidation and would rant at Bill nearly as long and hard as she would at Harry. Bill was amused and assured her with the straightest face imaginable that he couldn't understand what was happening. He even asked her if she'd like him to use his…special talents…to fix any of the problems. Aunt Petunia stalked off in a rage, furious at the thought of letting any kind of magic be performed in her home.

At another time, Harry might have found it very amusing. There was certainly no love between him and his relatives, and they deserved any and all of the frustration Bill was handing out. He wasn't hurting them, just annoying them, really. The truth of the situation, however, was that his ill health was getting to him, and he wished Bill would just leave the status quo. He didn't have the strength, or the energy, to deal with the hysteria of his relatives. The Dursleys were all over him the moment Bill left the house, demanding that he put a stop to both Bill's antics and his appearance.

Harry had begun doing extra chores and speaking as little as possible. He desperately tried to placate them and kept a silent count in his head of the days remaining until his birthday. He also had to cover all the extra work he was doing from Bill and Dobby, who wouldn't take kindly to it. The strain of it all was wearing him down.

The logical part of his brain knew it was useless to expect any kind of approval or acceptance from the Dursleys, but no matter how he tried, he could never stop that small part of himself that still craved it. It had always been that way, since he was a small child bringing home artwork and good reports, hoping for any kind word or praise. Aunt Petunia always just threw whatever he'd brought away, or scolded him for showing off and outdoing Dudley. It made him angry and disgusted with himself that he couldn't squash that last remnant of hope. He was worse than a dog that still wagged its tail for the master who repeatedly kicked him. The Dursleys had done their best to make him feel insignificant since the first day he was left here; why should he care what they thought of him?

He'd been getting intense flashes of feeling and waves of anger and frustration through his scar. Whatever was happening at Privet Drive, he was pleased to note that Voldemort was feeling as irritated as he was. He could only assume it meant Tom's recovery wasn't moving any quicker than his own. He'd feel guilty for snapping at Dobby, or Bill, yet he didn't want to admit that he wasn't certain if the frustration he was feeling was entirely his own.

One thing he'd discovered was that his knees ached horribly right before it rained. The first time it happened he was alarmed and thought he'd done something to re-injure himself. It was only after the next time, when it rained again, that he realized the bones that had been broken must somehow detect the change in barometric pressure before a storm.

Harry fluctuated between being tense over Bill's war with the Dursleys and relieved to have him there. Aside from Hedwig, Harry had never had anyone to talk to over the summer, and he found the change enjoyable. Bill got bored very quickly with Harry's solitary confinement and asked irritably what the hell he did all day while he was here. Harry just shrugged. Bill went out and bought a football for the two of them to kick around in the yard. By midweek, Dudley had taken to watching them and occasionally even kicked the ball back if either missed.

Harry couldn't play for extended periods of time – he just wasn't strong enough yet – but he enjoyed the activity and having something pleasant to do. It made blocking out the rest of his thoughts easier. He'd become expert at not thinking about anything that had happened at the end of term. If he allowed his thoughts to drift to any of the time he'd spend at Malfoy Manor, his chest would constrict tightly and breathing became difficult. He found it better just not to think about it at all. He'd pushed everything, including Jonathan, as far from his mind as he could and left it there. He just wished he could keep the nightmares at bay, as well. His nights were brutal, and it would take him longer and longer upon each awakening to get the vivid flashbacks under control.

When Bill came by and tried to work on the texts, Harry found he couldn't concentrate, and his mind would drift. Bill finally threw a pillow at him one day and told him to keep his leg steady and let him work. Harry was surprised to find he'd balled up one foot and was bouncing his leg up and down repeatedly. He hadn't even realized he was doing it.

After the first week, Bill finally announced that both Ron and Ginny would be coming for a visit. Uncle Vernon nearly hit the roof when he learned two more wizards would be in the house. Harry explained that they were his friends from school, but Uncle Vernon was past reason. Harry had never had friends over before, and he saw no reason to start now. Aunt Petunia told Harry to stay outside, which suited him fine, although he had no idea what they would do with themselves. Somehow, Uncle Vernon took this as Aunt Petunia allowing it, and the two had a huge row. As far as Harry knew, they still weren't speaking.

The thought of seeing Ron and Ginny again thrilled him and gave him something positive to focus his energy. He missed both of them, but it was Ginny he was longing to see. Things were always…better when she was with him. She'd written him every day since they got home, and her letters were well-creased and worn from all the times he'd read and re-read them. She was his lifeline in the tension-filled house at Privet Drive.

He'd only received one letter from Ron, and it was short and curt. Harry supposed Ron was in a bad mood after failing his Apparition test. Ginny wrote him about it and said Ron had never revised, so she didn't know why he was surprised. Hermione sent him a letter before she left on her trip saying she'd passed (of course), and Harry supposed Ron's ego was bruised. Hermione had probably given him an earful about it. Harry planned on helping Ron practice while he was here. He hoped he'd have some private time with Ginny, as well; there were other things he wanted to practice with her…

The midmorning sun blazed in the sky, sending waves of scorching heat down on the already burned-out lawns of Privet Drive. Row after row of identical houses lined the street with nary a soul in sight. All the residents of this part of suburbia were inside, seeking cool shade from the summer's heat wave.

One solitary figure sat staring from the steps of number four. His pale face was tense and drawn as he peered anxiously up the silent street. He wiped the sweat from his brow and returned to his to silent vigil. His body was rigid, appearing ready for flight at a moment's notice. He glanced at his watch repeatedly, as if willing time to move forward.

It had been one week since Harry's return to Privet Drive, one long, draining, incredibly stressful week, and now he was sitting on the steps awaiting the arrival of two of his best friends. Things were definitely looking up for him.

A slow smile crossed his face just thinking about it, and he again glanced at the street. Ron and Ginny were planning to Floo to Mrs. Figg's house, then Bill would accompany them here before they made their plans for the day. Harry had been sitting on the steps in the blazing heat waiting for them for nearly an hour, despite the fact that they weren't even due yet. Squinting into the distance, he grinned as he made out three figures with distinctive red heads plodding towards him.

A/N: Hello! I hope you're all still there. Here it is, the beginning. I agonized over a title for this one…finally deciding on Curse of the Damned, which will be explained later (though you can all probably guess what it is).

Now, don't correct me that Hermione won't be seventeen until September, I don't believe that. JKR has said Hermione's birthday was September 19, and that she was two months younger than Harry. She's also said students received their acceptance letter to Hogwarts on their eleventh birthday. It's contradictory. A Wizard parent with an extremely bright child might be able to sway someone to get a child with a close birthday in early, but not a Muggle parent. Hermione's parents wouldn't even know about Hogwarts until that letter arrived. So, I choose to believe that she was almost 12 when she started. I find it easy to believe she's older than the boys are. It's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.

I'm not sure about updates on this one, I don't know if I can be as quick as the last one, since I'm not as far into the story. I've struggled more with this one. I think it's because I'm worried about the expectations. Anyway, you know the drill, please R/R and let me know what you think…