I am really sorry if you were waiting for an update on one of my other stories, but my husband was playing AC all Sunday evening and that's my prime writing time, especially now that I've got a job. But I'm working on the next chapters for both Choices and the other one... so they should be up soon.


Harry Potter sat alone in his cousin's second bedroom, wondering what he had done to deserve his life. 'If this is payback for what I did in a past life,' he thought bitterly, 'I sincerely hope that I had fun.' A strained laugh escaped him, causing the thin boy to hold his side as searing pain shot through his broken ribs. 'Fucking fat bastard of a muggle, beating me for his own idiocy. Hope he never finds another job.'

Vernon Dursley had lost his job the day before Harry had come to Privet drive for the summer. In some twisted logic, this meant that it was Harry's fault that Grunnings had needed to downsize. The warning delivered by the Order members at the train station hadn't really helped matters. Apparently, it had never occurred to the wizards that an undersized teenager could be forced to write anything if there were enough threats and pain applied.

Unfortunately, Vernon had the perfect blackmail tool to keep Harry writing innocuous lies: Hedwig. Harry loved his owl a great deal, and with Vernon combining threats to her with his increasingly vicious beating of Harry, the teen saw no option but to pen the dictated letters, no matter what level of horseshit they contained.

Frankly, the density of the adult wizards who were supposed to protect him pissed Harry off. Every letter that he sent to them was almost a carbon copy of the one before it, with little change and absolutely no mention of anything that was written to him by the order. Perhaps they thought he was being security conscious by not giving any personal information inside his letters, but really, they should realize that something was seriously wrong.

He hadn't stepped out of the house since he'd entered it on June 27th; being that it was now July 30th, you'd think that someone would have considered that strange. Harry idly wondered when they'd come for him this year, or even if they'd come. Surely they realized that the Dursleys' hadn't taken him to King's Cross since his first year, and weren't likely to strain themselves to do it this year. Of course, if they really believed that 'my relatives are treating me quite well' garbage, maybe they thought that his relatives would be delighted to take him to the train station.

Harry snorted softly. 'Yeah, that'll happen. Right after Dudley makes it down to normal size.'

He realized that the summer had changed him. No longer could he trust in the adults in his life, not that he'd ever trusted them in the blind fashion that his friends Ron and Hermione did, but after this summer, he'd realized that the only person he could count on was himself. His friends were nice kids, but they were kids, they trusted. He had figured out that when you trust someone, you are trusting everyone that the person in question trusts. Given that premise, Harry could find no possible way to trust anyone.

Hermione and Ron were out because each trusted adults. For Ron, it was his parents; with Hermione, it was anyone in a position of authority. She trusted them until it was proven that she couldn't, Harry preferred not to trust until it was proven that he could. If he couldn't trust his two closest friends, then there was no way he could trust any of his schoolmates.

As for adults, every one he knew had either proven themselves untrustworthy or trusted someone who he could not.

So Harry found himself alone. When he went back to Hogwarts, if he could get back, he'd still be alone. This revelation had left him hurting almost as much as his grief over Sirius's death, but he'd slowly come to terms with both over the last month.

While his grief for his godfather was still a raw wound inside of his heart, Harry had come to terms with his guilt. Mistakes couldn't be taken back, and Harry accepted his culpability, but he realized that he wasn't the only one to blame. Sirius shared a portion of the fault, as did Dumbledore, Snape, and Lestrange. Above all, Voldemort was at fault for the death of Sirius, and Harry laid most of the blame at his door.

Thinking of the snake-faced bastard made his scar twinge in pain. Harry closed his eyes, allowing his thoughts to disconnect, accepting his emotions before dismissing them from his mind. Slowly, the pain faded from his scar, leaving him free once again from Voldemort's poisonous influence.

The exercise of Occlumency was almost enough to enrage him again, but Harry had dealt with the anger and betrayal he'd felt when he'd managed to figure out how to clear his mind on his own. It was so bloody simple that he'd spent two whole days raging at Snape for not being able to teach him it. Or not even really trying.

Once Harry had realized that he'd been blocking Snape unconsciously from the memories that he hadn't wanted the professor to see, and figured out that he couldn't stifle or get rid of his emotions, Occlumency had become ridiculously easy.

It was nothing more than accepting his emotions as valid, thus allowing them to pass, and organizing his memories into ones he needed to protect and ones that he didn't care if someone saw. He'd found a muggle book in the attic while cleaning that had helped him greatly. The cover and many of the pages had been destroyed due to mildew, but the portion that was still legible had mentioned a way to organize your mind. The book had called it a memory palace, and had described how every object in the palace led to specific memories and connections.

Harry had made himself a memory castle, one very like Hogwarts. The memories the needed protecting were inside the castle in various secure locations, while other memories, like boring History of Magic lectures, were placed on the grounds as distractions for anyone who breached the wards. Between the wards, the distraction of the grounds, and the defenses of the castle, it would be a long time before someone attacking his mind got anywhere near memories Harry didn't want them to see. The delay would give him time to wrench his mind away, or to cast a defensive spell.

Even if the attacker got inside the castle, they still had to find the memories they were looking for. The prophecy was hidden inside a secret passage deep in the dungeons, making it very nearly impossible to find. Harry had no doubts that Voldemort could eventually dig it out of his head, but it would take quite some time, and old snake-face would be vulnerable during the search. Hopefully, his mental defenses would give the Order time to rescue him, but if they couldn't or wouldn't, there were some very nasty traps inside his mind, just waiting for the unwary idiot who tried to enter Harry's mind.

The teen sighed as he glanced at the clock. 11:57. Wonderful. In three minutes he'd be sixteen, but what would that change? At least he'd be one year closer to being an adult, allowed to use magic outside of school. If Dumbledore thought that he'd stay in this house one minute after his seventeenth birthday, then the old man was crazier than he pretended to be.

At the stroke of midnight, a flash of fire appeared in the center of the room. Fawkes, Dumbledore's phoenix, had just teleported into the room. Harry stared for a moment, flabbergasted, before removing the letters tied to the bird's legs.

"'Lo Fawkes," he said, stroking the brilliant plumage. "Is this from Dumbledore?"

The bird made a sound that was a definite negative and slowly shook his head.

"No? Weird," Harry said, unfolding the first letter. He nearly dropped it when he realized it was from Sirius.

Dear Harry,

One of the perks of knowing a phoenix is the ability to have a letter or package delivered when certain conditions are met. This letter will only be delivered to you on you sixteenth birthday if I've died. Not being a seer, I have no idea how I've come to leave you like this, but I hope it wasn't a Dementor's kiss.

First, I have to apologize to you, kiddo. I'm sorry that I left you. I'm sorry that I went after the traitor instead of taking care of you. If I had been thinking, you would have never been left with those horrid muggles, and if you had, at least I could have visited often and put the fear of wizards into them.

Next, I need to tell you that I've made you my magical heir. In the wizarding world, it's possible to 'pass on' bloodlines and power without a genetic connection. As I have no children of my body, I choose to give the child of my heart everything. That's you, in case you didn't know.

This makes you Harry Potter-Black, and entitles you to everything I have. Now that I'm dead, you are the head of the Black family, meaning you own Grimmauld Place. So spend some money, kid, get a bunch of clothes, pranks, and candy. Buy whatever you want… I can't make up for what we've missed, but I can make sure you never have to worry about money in your life.

Finally, I have to give you three things. The first is the Black family pendant. It's the sign of the heir. You'll get the signet ring when my will is read. The other two are letters from your parents. I know what's in them, but you'd better read it from James and Lily.

I love you kiddo, always,

Snuffles.

Harry wiped a stray tear from his eye as he read what Sirius had written to him. Refolding the letter almost reverently, he picked up the silver chain that had spilled from the letter. Dangling from the chain was a small pendant, about the size of his thumbnail, with a drawing of the Milky Way engraved into it. He put the chain around his neck, feeling a tingle go through his body.

'Must be some kind of magic in the pendant,' he thought, as he picked up the next letter. Opening it, he saw it was from his mother. He had to take a few deep breaths before he was calm enough to read the letter.

Dear Harry,

I truly hope that you never receive this letter, but things are way too dangerous right now for me to forgo writing it until a later date. Voldemort is looking for us, and even under the fidelus charm, we are not safe. I'm entrusting this letter to Sirius, who is going to leave it with Fawkes, guaranteeing that you will get it on your sixteenth birthday.

I have to tell you something that will change your life. Not the prophecy, but something else. However, if you have no idea what I'm talking about when I mention the prophecy, go see Albus Dumbledore and don't leave until he gives you an answer. Hex him if you must.

What I need to tell you is more personal. Before I married James, I also dated another man. He was a spy, and we eventually broke up due to the strain of hiding our relationship. He never was the easiest man to get along with, and he surely did not need the extra stress of dating a muggle-born witch.

Just after James and I married, I discovered I was pregnant. At first I was sure it was James's, due to the fact that we'd been exclusive for several months by then. But I was a bit further along than that. I hadn't noticed with all of the changes going on in my life right then.

James accepted you, even though you weren't his son. He made you his heir, even though there's every chance we could have a child together at some point. Never doubt that he loves you like his own.

So now I guess you're wondering why you look just like James and why I'm telling you now. You look like James due to a charm that I wove into the spell that made you James's heir. It will only last until you are sixteen, because that is the age when you come into your inheritance. Once you go to sleep tonight, you will become the heir of you biological father as well as James.

I suppose you want to know who your father is. His name is Severus Snape, and he is a potion's master and a spy in the death eaters. What else can I tell you about him, other than that? He hates James with a passion, and I have no doubt that if you know him, he hates you.

I'd like to say that I'm sure you'll get on just fine once he gets used to being a father, but I can't. He is a difficult man to know, and he will likely resent that he did not get to raise his heir. Add that to the fact that he's from a very, very tradition bound family, and I'd guess that cool civility is the best that you can hope for.

Always remember that I love you, and so does James.

Your mother,

Lily.

Harry sat blinking at the letter in his hand. He was extremely upset with the contents of the letter, and couldn't even begin to wrap his mind around the idea that Snape and his mother had been together, let alone that they had created him.

'Bloody hell,' he thought, 'that's just disgusting. Snape is my father. I think I'm going to be sick. Oh, dear Merlin, what's the greasy bastard going to do about it?'

The teen fought to keep his breathing steady, trying not to hyperventilate. He dropped the letter and retreated into his mind castle, to give himself time to accept the myriad emotions he was feeling and to hide the information deep in the castle, so that Voldemort would have no chance of finding it if he got in while Harry was sleeping.

'I may not trust Snape, and I surely don't like him, but I'm not going to let him get killed by the snake-faced bastard for having unwittingly fathered me.'

Twenty minutes later, Harry opened his eyes, having dealt with his immediate reaction to his mother's letter. He knew that it would be part of his nightly Occlumency meditations for a long time to come, but for the moment, he could set it aside and read what James had to say. Opening his last letter, he set aside the small golden object that tumbled out, and began to read the words of the man he'd thought was his father.

Dear Harry,

I know your mother wrote you a letter to be delivered on this date. If you haven't read it, read it now, before going further in this letter. All done? Good.

So now you know that I did not father you. That doesn't matter one bit, I'm still your dad. I got to see you come into the world, I get to hold you, and I get to love you. Poor Snape does not.

Not that I can dredge up much sympathy for him. If he had gotten to have you and your mother, I would not have, and that would have sucked. You probably know, if Sirius raised you, that your father and I hated each other as kids. Hell, he hates me now. I certainly have earned it, though. I was a little bastard for the first five years I was at Hogwarts, and by the time I'd sorted out my juvenile prejudices, I'd made a life-long enemy in the person of Severus Snape.

Even worse was when I married the woman he loved. I know very well that he loved Lily, and I frankly did not care. When their relationship died from the strain, I was right there, courting your mother. Maybe I took advantage, but I love her, and she loves me. Who knows what would have happened if Voldemort wasn't a factor, but he was, and I married Lily.

Don't let your father bully you too much. Remember that you are my son too, and more than likely Padfoot's. You don't need him, the Potter fortune alone is enough to see you through your life, and he can't take away your bloodline. While you do not need him, he needs you. I don't foresee him ever having another child, and making a magical heir only works if you have no children at the time the spell is cast. You're it for him, his only chance to pass on his name and powers.

You may be wondering why I made you my heir, especially since I'm certainly young enough to father another child, and Lily is young enough to have plenty more kids. Well, there are many reasons, but mainly I wanted you to know that I wanted you. I never want you to think that I only put up with you because I wanted your mother. I love you; you are my son, so I made you my son. That simple.

The little lion enclosed in this letter is the symbol of the Potter heir. It's an earring, just put it up to the lobe of your left ear, and it will attach itself. The Potter family seal will be yours upon your seventeenth birthday or my death, whichever is later.

I love you son, and be sure to visit your vault now that you're sixteen… there's a few presents there from the Marauders.

Love, your dad,

James.

Harry folded up the letter and followed the instructions for the earring, wincing as it pierced his ear. He tucked the letters in his hiding place under the floorboards and laid down to clear his mind before trying to sleep.


Yikes, it's kinda scary how long my chapters can get when I have no internet to distract me while I'm writing.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and a double thank you if you reveiw!