This piece takes place directly after Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix. It's pretty much a canon sequel, with twists of my own. Don't expect it to be updated every day, or on a schedule. I've got several chapters done, but not enough to start adding one a day or a week.

That's it. Please review, let me know what you think, and most importantly, enjoy!


Harry Potter and the Veil of Murder
by Raine Lionheart

Chapter One
The Crup

For anyone who knew the residents of 4 Privet Drive intimately, it would come to no surprise that sparks were flying.

Literally.

Showers of golden and red sparks burst through the air right above the roof of the house, coming from, it seemed, the other side of the roofing, bursting through the paneling. A passerby would have perhaps blamed these sparks on an excited patron of the household, preparing fireworks for Guy Fawkes Day. However, these sparks were originating from a person.

On the first floor were two people: a very large, rotund boy, whose hair was flattened to the sides of his multiple-chin endowed head; clutching him from behind as if to protect him was a tall, horsy beast of a woman, the boy's mother. They were seeking refuge in the kitchen.

A level up were two more people, both of whom were on the verge of shattering every single window in a mile radius with their now echoing shouts. The older (and larger) man had a large purple face and no neck, which was compensated for by a huge, bushy moustache. He was exchanging words with a taller boy, who could not look any less like his uncle. He had grown to be a thin youth of average height, and at this moment, his eternally messy hair on end, his glasses were askew and his normally pale face was a deep crimson.

"I – DO – NOT – CARE – IF – THAT – RUDDY – BEAST – CROAKS!" shouted Uncle Vernon, making Harry Potter sure for a moment that steam would shoot from his overlarge uncle's ears. "It keeps your aunt and I up at night with its incessant barking, and we have more to worry about with this… Lord Whatsit after you!"

Vernon's glare drifted from Harry to the animal at his leg, which stared back, its eyes appearing to be narrowed in human fashion. It was about to let out a bark, but Vernon's bulging eyes seemed to change the Crup's mind.

"If you do not fix that beast," Vernon warned in a quiet tone, "I promise you," and with a deep breath, he continued shouting. "I'LL FIX YOU BOTH WITH A RUSTY KNIFE!"

Harry knew what his uncle meant, but did not waver. He hissed back, just as furious, "He'll do whatever the bloody hell he wants, and you will not lay a finger on him."

"You hardly have a choice boy!" Vernon challenged. "This is my house, not yours." He looked very satisfied with himself at these words and continued. "I make the rules, and as a guest," he spat the last words with utter contempt, "you will abide by them."

"Your rules are a crock!"

"WHAT?"

Harry stood his ground. Uncle Vernon was fuming, but would not dare lay a hand upon him.

Harry took a new approach. "I suppose it's a rule that anyone or thing that's… "unnatural", and living here must pretend that they don't exist?"

Vernon's eyes widened.

"YES!"

A brief pause allowed for Harry to plan his next few words.

"All right. I'll keep Sirius quiet… and I might as well shut up too… I'm as unnatural as he is after all… let's see what happens after three or four days of silence, shall we?"

Jackpot, Harry thought to himself with grim satisfaction. As stupid as Vernon might appear to be at times, he had a remarkable common sense that worked best in his favor if threatened. Like this very moment, for example.

Harry hadn't directly threatened his uncle, but had planted the seed that blossomed the idea into weeds, spreading through his mind at a rapid pace.

"You… you dare try anything… anything like—"

"Anything that would call my friends here?" Harry finished.

Vernon's now puce face was scrunched in concentration. He seemed to be processing a response that would be in his favour…

"All right, all right, I won't harm your… pet," he snarled, emphasizing the word pet, to which the Crup growled loudly. "But," he replied, waving a finger at his nephew, "but, I cannot be held responsible for Dudley's actions towards that mangy mutt."

Harry snorted. "That mangy mutt" had frightened the boxing champ into staying away from Harry for the last two weeks. And now, "that mangy mutt" was chewing on the leg of Harry's bed.

"Stoppit," Harry muttered, prodding Sirius with his toe. The Crup whined and belly-crawled under Harry's bed, where he kept a wary eye on Vernon.

Harry turned back to his uncle. Without even looking into his uncle's swollen face, he said, quietly, "Leave the room please."

His uncle's eyes widened, as his mouth did, but Harry held up his hand.

"I'm only going to call Mr. Weasley. Not bewitch the walls to devour your whale of a son."

A glower crossed the face of Vernon Dursley, who raised a finger, about to say something, a something that came out as a "hmph". He stalked off, slamming Harry's door closed behind him.

Closing his eyes he let out a long-suffered sigh and resigned himself to sitting on his bed. Harry's mind wandered to the subject of his new friend, whose questionable taste in edibles included his old trainers.

The Crup had in fact been a gift. A collective gift from his friends in the Order of the Phoenix, who had been worried about him since the events of the past school year.

Ever since Harry had discovered that he was a world famous wizard (ironic really), he had noticed an increase in attention from both Muggle (a non-wizard) and wizard worlds. The Muggle attention was unwelcome and was specifically from his horrid relatives, the Dursleys, to whom Harry was connected with through the shared blood of his mother and her sister, Petunia; horsy, bitter Aunt Petunia, who had married Vernon. Only days after Lily and James Potter had been murdered, Harry had found himself in the unwelcome arms of his aunt and uncle. Both of whom hated anything that could never be deemed normal; witches and wizards were at the top of this list, and they decided to take this opportunity to smother Harry with chores and misery. They had hoped to stomp the magic from him.

However, on his eleventh birthday (which seemed like a century ago to Harry), he had received a letter from the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the highest regarded institution of learning in Britain for young magic-wielders. Harry had met Rubeus Hagrid, quite literally his oldest friend now, and learned of his background, of the magic world, and of who he really was. And Hagrid had taken Harry from the Dursleys, at least temporarily, to show him what he had missed.

Since then, Harry had discovered that his parents had been murdered by Lord Voldemort, the most feared and deadly wizard of the past century. That same night, Voldemort had tried to set upon Harry with the Killing Curse, but failed due to incredible magic on the behalf of Harry's mother. Instead, the curse had been reflected back to Voldemort who, more immortal than mortal, had been torn from his body while Harry's only token of the night was a lightning bolt scar on his forehead and a deep psychic connection to Voldemort.

Harry's scar – the relic from this encounter with Voldemort at the age of one – had been burning constantly for the last few weeks. Not the occasional pricking that had accompanied him through his first four years of Hogwarts schooling, and more constantly through last year, but a mild searing, like that in the tongue after a large dose of Tabasco.

This had made Harry somewhat more irritable over the past month, but it reminded him of what he and the others were fighting for.

For Cedric, and Bertha Jorkins and the Longbottoms and… For Sirius… and my parents…

Five years had passed since Hagrid had first broken down that door; five years of schooling at Hogwarts, of playing Quidditch and delving into adventures with his friends. And over those five years, he had been happier then ever. And more grievous. And more recently, angrier.

Harry's life had been spiraling out of control for over a year now, beginning with the resurrection Voldemort. It had been in June, the last year, when Harry had found himself tied to a gravestone labelled "Tom Riddle". Bound and gagged, injured in countless places, staring into the cold, yet burning scarlet eyes of Lord Voldemort. Moments before, this vile creature had resurrected from the bones of his Muggle father, the flesh of his servent Wormtail and the blood of his arch nemesis – namely Harry.

On the ground, mere feet from them, had lay the corpse of one of Harry's fellow students, Cedric Diggory. Murdered at the hands of Voldemort.

Since the rebirth of Voldemort, Harry had been in the protection of the Order of the Phoenix, comprised of wizards and witches of all sorts, most of whom had fought Voldemort in the days of old, before his first encounter with Harry. Among these members (they were not, in fact, true members, but merely helpers and associates to the elder witches and wizards) were two of Harry's closest friends, whom he had met five years ago. Ron Weasley was a pure-blood wizard from a family whose name went back generations, but a family whose name was also very poor. Hermione Granger was an extremely bright Muggle-born witch with a short temper and a steadfast dedication to the rules (which she strayed from quite often for the sake of saving the wizarding world).

The Weasley family were brilliant bunch, and all (minus Ron's brother Percy, who remained neutral in the issues) were members of the Order. This included Arthur and Molly, Ron's parent's, and his four brothers Bill, Charlie and Ron's other two brothers, twins Fred and George. They were strongly connected to the Order, but remained busy with their new joke shop in Diagon Alley.

Two of Harry's professors from Hogwarts were members as well: Professors McGonagall (a stern, powerful witch who served as Deputy Headmistress and Transfiguration Professor) and Snape (the sallow-skinned, greasy Potions master whose hate for Harry was matched only by Harry's hate for him).

Remus Lupin, who had been a close friend of Harry's parents, was one of the chief members of the new Order. Alongside him were the legendary, if not paranoid Auror Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody; the young, brash, clumsy Nymphadora Tonks, a genius of disguise; and the statuesque Auror Kingsley Shacklebolt.

And then there was the Headmaster of Harry's school, Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore.

The one wizard Harry had trusted more than anyone in the world was Dumbledore. The wizard who had stood up to Voldemort and faced him as an equal. Albus Dumbledore, highly regarded as the world's most powerful wizard.

Still, Dumbledore's powers merely matched Voldemort's, they were not stronger. If this had not been the case, Voldemort would have been vanquished long before he could murder the Potters. And of course, his godfather Sirius would not be dead.

An escaped prisoner of the horrendous island of Azkaban, Sirius Black had come to find Harry not to kill him, but to avenge Harry's parents. Black had been their closest friend and was the perfect candidate to be their son's godfather. However, when James and Lily were betrayed by another friend, Peter Pettigrew, the finger was pointed to Sirius, who served thirteen years under the watch of the torrid Dementors before his much-publicized escape two years ago.

After escaping Azkaban, and seeking out Harry (and more importantly, the thought-dead Pettigrew, a follower of Voldemort's who had faked his death), Sirius had told his godson the entire story, and had promised to take Harry in, before being forced to flee once more from the Ministry and its Dementors. He had gone into hiding, helping Harry through the worst of times, whether in the form of a head, floating in the flames of the Gryffindor common room, or as the large bearhound that was his Animagus form.

Throughout Harry's fourth year, in which he had been forced head-on into the Triwizard Tournament, Sirius' guidance had been instrumental not only in his victory over the three true champions, but also in his survival through the trying tasks, which had been unknowingly rigged in Harry's favor. In the end, when Harry had found himself the champion by default (at the cost of Cedric's life), Sirius stood by him as long as he could before leaving once more, to avoid apprehension. Harry hadn't any need to feel alone for long, because as the summer began, he'd been swept away from the dreaded Dursley homestead to the Black Manor, where he saw more of Sirius than he had over the course of his life.

Before long, however, the school year had begun again, and with Harry at Hogwarts, his only interaction with Sirius came at the most inopportune times, ending with the devastating battle in the Department of Mysteries, in the Ministry of Magic's lower levels.

Sirius died there, and Harry would never forget that fact.

He had been killed by his own cousin, no less. The insane Bellatrix Lestrange had duelled with Harry's godfather, and had bested him, destroying Sirius with the Killing Curse that had stolen Lily and James Potter almost fifteen years before.

Harry had watched Sirius fall, dead, behind a dark, brooding curtain in the Department of Mysteries. But Sirius' death had become both insignificant and indescribably significant within moments. Ignoring all protests and all need to find Sirius behind the veil, Harry had pursued Lestrange to the main lobby of the Ministry. Here, out of his mind with rage, Harry fell into the trap that Voldemort might have been planning to set since the release of Bellatrix and her compatriots from Azkaban; since his resurrection even. It was during his duel with Bellatrix that Harry had performed a curse so terrible, it was dubbed an Unforgivable Curse by all. The Cruciatus Curse, the Curse of Pain.

However, the curse had lasted a mere second, as Harry was unfamiliar with casting one of the three Unforgivable Curses. But this had been enough to show Harry how Sirius had affected him, in death. He'd mindlessly risked a life term in Azkaban for Sirius' honor.

Only three people knew what he had done: Albus Dumbledore, Bellatrix Lestrange and Voldemort.

The battle had ended, of course, with Voldemort's escape from the Ministry, and Dumbledore's decision to finally let Harry know the story behind his and Voldemort's twisted, binded future.

That story lay heavy on Harry mind still, but laying even heavier was the death of Sirius. Even after a month, give or take a few weeks, Harry could barely go an hour without thinking of his enigmatic, eccentric godfather, whom he had known for so short a time and yet loved as though he were a relative. Harry found himself crying in the middle of the night, going entire days without meals, keeping his head in the clouds, thinking of the days he'd spent with Sirius…

Which led to the Order's apparent paranoia. Ever since Sirius' murder, Harry had reflected on the Department of Mysteries and the battle that had ensued. He knew that he had acted irrationally, even stupidly; however, he also knew that his actions had been for the best, in some way.

Well, completely and utterly destroying Dumbledore's office was not for the best, even if it meant that Harry wasn't bottling his rage.

Lupin had been the one, apparently, who had stirred this paranoia within the group. He still saw Harry as a child (albeit, he was right, Harry was only sixteen; but still…) and felt that Harry needed more protection, most likely from the Dursleys, and perhaps a companion, especially since Hedwig, as an owl was not the affectionate type. Harry's friends would not be able to come within a mile of the Dursleys due to their hostility, and he could not expect to find friendship in his bloated cousin Dudley.

Enter Sirius the lovable Crup. On his birthday, when Harry had been awoken by the wet touch of a canine tongue, his immediate thought was that Sirius had come, to shake him from his month-long nightmare. He had discovered the Crup instead, who had taken to Harry as a wand takes to its owner. And in his current state, in need of a replacement, Harry had called the Crup Sirius.

He'd given thought to the suspicion that the animal was really a spy for the Order, keeping close tabs on him and maybe making sure that he wasn't preparing to do something stupid like run away. But even if that were the case, at least Sirius didn't fuss over him like Mrs. Weasley tended to.

Harry's thought train derailed, for at that moment, Sirius had taken to chewing an old jumper of Dudley's, a hideous olive green thing that Aunt Petunia had forced upon him. Harry smirked and tossed Sirius the pair of faded mustard socks.

"I don't know which of these would make you sicker, boy…"

Harry now decided to pick up from where he had left off. Before his uncle had come to chew him out about Sirius' barking, he'd been finishing up a letter to Luna Lovegood, a rather odd girl from Ravenclaw that Harry and his friends had somehow befriended over the course of the last year. Harry had been surprised when, through a few brief conversations, he found that he shared quite a bit in common with Luna. Which was not exactly a good thing, considering her nickname was Loony Lovegood. But anyone who was an avid Quidditch-eer, and Ministry skeptic, was worth as a friend, whether their nickname be Loony, Squibs or Moon Unit.

Dear Luna,

How is your summer so far? Mine is horrible. The Muggles I told you about are being the teensiet bit nicer, though this can hardly be noticed, as I get a yelling-at once a day without fail..

Oh, this isn't so bad. In fact, for my birthday I got a Crup! The Order (Harry had long started to trust Luna, one of those involved in the Department of Mysteries fiasco, and had told her about the Order) thinks that he'll help me, maybe by keeping me amused, by biting my cousin if he comes within a metre of me, or something. In any case, I named him Sirius… for obvious reasons.

How has your father's magazine been printing? I hope he's had more business since my interview. He certainly helped me in printing it. Be sure to express my gratitude to him for the help he provide, will you?

Well, I hope that your summer is better than mine. Owl me the results of the next few Quidditch matches will you? I still don't trust the Daily Prophet

Your friend,

Harry

PS. I hope you got all of your things back by term end.

Harry folded and enveloped the letter, then glanced out the window, in hopes of seeing Hedwig's silhouette approaching. But she was off, delivering a letter to Lupin, thanking him and the others for Sirius (although he omitted the Crup's name so that Lupin would not raise alarm to Harry's current state). He would have to wait another day or so to send off Luna's letter.

Harry had found it a bit awkward to think about the spacy, indifferent Ravenclaw girl at summer's start, as a feeling of pity had developed in him towards her. Seeing how people treated her, Harry hadn't the faintest idea if she would take his letters seriously. As Harry spent days alone in his room, playing with Sirius or writing letters, or doing schoolwork, he had much time to think about this, and he'd pondered the feeling of pity. Somehow, it didn't seem right. Instead, as they wrote each other back and forth, Harry felt that a friendship as deep as his with Ron or Hermione might form between them.

"Hey! Not that pair!"

Harry sighed and pulled a pair of jeans away from Sirius, who began chewing at his old jumper instead. Harry lay on his bed, rubbing his eyes beneath his glasses.

Tap tap.

The noise startled Harry. He looked out the window to see an owl perched upon his sill.

With his involvement in the battle in the Department of Mysteries last year, Neville Longbottom had become a good friend of Harry's. The two boys shared more in common than meets the eye because Neville, it was now known to Harry, was a pivotal piece in the prophecy that connected Harry to Lord Voldemort. The prophecy stated that the boy born under the dying of July, whose parents had thrice escaped the Dark Lord, would be his undoing. Both these points were true of Neville and Harry. However, it was the last bit that separated Harry from the other boy, as Voldemort had marked Harry as his equal, that night fifteen years ago. Neville, while being a strong force, could never hope to face Voldemort as an equal.

Yet, in spite of this, Harry felt that Neville would play a part in Harry's survival in the future, as a friend more than a simple ally. And so, he'd started writing the other boy as soon as he returned to the Privet Drive, as he had Luna Lovegood. And because of his steadfast trust in Harry, Neville became entrusted with secrets that Harry had only trusted to Ron and Hermione in the past.

Last summer, Harry had been upset with Ron and Hermione, and even Sirius, for the lack of answers in their letters to him. Now, it seemed as if the pair were ignoring him outright, which hearkened him to remember his first summer back from Hogwarts, when their letters had been intercepted and hidden from Harry. This time around, however, Harry was more upset with Ron and Hermione to care that he'd only received two or three letters apiece from them. After all, Harry now had Neville and Luna as correspondents to keep him occupied.

Opening his window, Harry watched Neville's owl flutter over to his desk, where he waited patiently for Harry to untie note on his foot. It was a short letter from Harry's new friend that helped to brighten his mood ever so slightly, as the sun disappeared over the horizon completely.

Harry,

Glad to hear that you've been treated with some decency. That Dudley seems to be a stupider version of Draco Malfoy. I'd say that he's worth twelve of that Slytherin, not me (Harry grinned sheepishly).

My gram still stands by her words, and trusts you more than the Ministry. She's even stopped her subscription to the Daily Prophet because of all the slanderous filth they spewed against you before turning about with the news that Voldemort (the name was very blotted, Harry had a hard time reading it) had returned. She sends her regards and hopes to see you before sixth year starts.

I'll close here. I've got chores to do.

Oh! And Happy Birthday Harry.

Neville "Squibs" Longbottom

Harry admired much about Neville, mostly his dedication to his parents, Alice and Frank Longbottom. They'd been Aurors in the early days of Voldemort's reign, original members of the Order Of The Phoenix, and had suffered the Cruciatus Curse until their sanity broke, at the hands of Bellatrix Lestrange and three other Death Eaters. They now resided at St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, where Neville would faithful visit them with his grandmother.

Harry felt deeply for Neville, perhaps more sorry for him than he did himself, because he felt that at least his parents weren't suffering some horrid existence as Neville's were.

Harry replied immediately to Neville's letter.

Neville,

You're not far off, Dudley's the type that the Sorting Hat would likely place in Slytherin. Probably a step behind Crabbe and Goyle, which is saying something.

That doesn't seem to be a problem however. My crup (a present from Lupin and the Order) has scared Dudley out of my presence seemingly forever. I wonder how long it'll last.

Give your gram my regards and thank her for believing the word of an "addle-brained" young hooligan such as myself.

Thanks for the Sweet Sprout. It certainly makes living on carrots and bread more bearable I wish I had something to send you for your birthday too, but I'm afraid that my days are spent indoors mostly.

Ron, Hermione and I are planning on meeting in Diagon Alley sometime in the last week of August, and you're more than welcome to join us. I can buy you something there, although Luna should be there, and I know that will be something of a pleaser for you… hee hee.

Let me know if you can make it.

Your friend

Harry

Harry tied his note to the leg of Dasher, Neville's tawny owl, and let him fly out the window into the midnight air. Harry sat down on his bed again before remembering that he still had to call Mr. Weasley. Another distraction keeping him from bed.

Harry had been issued a phone by his uncle at the beginning of the summer for this very purpose: he had no desire to listen in on a conversation between his freak nephew and his abnormal kind in the living room. So Harry had found this to be a good opportunity to ring Ron and Hermione on occasion (Mr. Weasley usually let Harry speak to Ron when he called).

Harry dialed the number off by heart. He had absorbed it into his memory after reading it for the first time after Mr. Weasley had given it to him at King's Cross. He heard three rings before a click, followed by a muffled cacophony in the background. Harry distinctly heard Mr. Weasley yell, "Put that away George!" before he said, "Harry!" Mr. Weasley's voice, from the other end, was clearly excited and no doubt relieved. "How are you m'boy?"

"All right, all things considered," he replied thoughtfully. "I haven't had a vision yet, if that's any consolation."

Mr. Weasley spoke with less volume now; the din of the Burrow had shut up very quickly. "Excellent, excellent, the "tall man" suspected that might happen. We don't think "our friend" wants to reveal to much to you, and is keeping his mind clear…" "Our friend" was code for Voldemort, something the ever vigilant Mad-Eye Moody insisted they use in their conversations lest their telephone line was tapped. "And how about your scar?"

Harry winced at being reminded, rubbing the now burning flesh wound above his eyebrow.

"Still on slow burn," he reported. "Three weeks now."

And I still haven't gone insane… well, not completely at any rate.

"That isn't a good sign Harry," Mr. Weasley said. "We think that, with the "ugly guys" on "our friend's" side, the "sad place" has become his base of operations."

So Azkaban was Voldemort's new home. It made sense, now that the Dementors had sided with him.

"The "home team" hasn't been able to cross onto the island ever since the Department of Mys—"

He stopped before finishing the sentence, knowing that Harry would most likely react. However, Harry seemed to ignore the last few words, and said, "This definitely is not good."

"The "tall man" has made an appeal to the "Head Honcho"," Mr. Weasley continued, referring to Dumbledore and Cornelius Fudge, the Minister Of Magic. "He's suggested that we keep a close eye on not only the "sad place", but the "home team's" offices as well. My level has been interrogated several times this week by the "good guys"."

"What did F— uh, the "Grand Idiot" say about Az— er, the "sad… place"?" Harry asked, trying to ignore the nonsense coming out of his mouth.

Mr. Weasley clucked his tongue. "He agreed with the "tall man"," Mr. Weasley replied, "although a bit grudgingly. He's still upset over the… er… the attack, as he put it, at the… "big house"."

"Mr. Weasley? Do you think we really need all this nonsense code? I doubt Voldemort would know a telephone from a hot iron."

"I think I agree with you Harry," Mr. Weasley said. "I'm starting to question Moody's methods again."

Harry snorted, but returned to all seriousness at once when Mr. Weasley dropped the charade and the bombshell.

"Aurors are on patrol at the coast, and in the Ministry. And (although I shouldn't tell you this) in Hogwarts as well."

Now a groan erupted from Harry, who most vehemently hated any extra attention, something that was guaranteed within the wizarding world. While Arthur Weasley made it seem as though the Aurors stationed at Hogwarts were there to guard the students and the halls of Magic Britian's pride and joy, Harry had no doubt that he was a higher priority to the Ministry. At Dumbledore's insistence.

But even as this thought finished scrolling through his head, a new, gleaming thought came to mind.

"Anyone we know?"

Arthur chuckled on the other end of the line. "Yes, in fact, many that we do. Dumbledore pulled a few strings and received a full compliment of friends. Kingsley, Tonks, Daedelus, Remus, Mad-Eye, Mundungus…"

"I thought that you said that there were going to be Aurors at Hogwarts? Only Moody, Kingsley and Tonks are, aren't they?"

"Well, there will be more as well, five others in fact."

Absorbing this information, Harry considered what his sixth year at Hogwarts was to be like. Interesting, to say the least, if not slightly unpleasent. Especially around the Slytherins. Draco Malfoy, to be specific, now that his father was a wanted man, and a death threat hung between him and Harry now.

"I can understand Aurors being there, but Lupin, Dung and Daedelus? Does this have anything to do with Malfoy?"

"As a matter of fact," Mr. Weasley replied at once, "it does. Professor Snape informed Dumbledore about your… er… confrontation just before term end. Remus is to watch over—"

"—over me to make sure that I'm a good boy and that nobody tries to rearrange my vital organs."

"Er, in a matter of speaking…"

Harry rolled his eyes.

"It's for your own good Harry," Mr. Weasley said, as if sensing this ocular gesture.

"That's what you keep saying."

"It is." Mr. Weasley didn't miss a beat on that one.

"I suppose the Aurors of the Order aren't simply there for décor, are they?"

"Harry—"

"Why can't you lot realize that I'm fine?"

"Are you Harry?"

"YES!

No, you're not, nagged a tiny, annoying voice in Harry's mind. Sirius' death has you degenerated into a child. Bawling at night and unable to handle yourself.

I can handle myself, he retorted to himself.

Tell that to the Muggle report who reported on the colorful sparks shooting out your window two weeks ago.

Harry grimaced and waited for Arthur to respond.

"Harry, I'm sorry, but I've got to be going. Dung's just come by, needs me to speak to Kingsley about something or other. Would you like to talk to Ron?"

Harry's normal reaction was to say yes, because he usually had faith in Ron to tell him what was going on in the rest of the world. But Harry stop thinking about his and Hermione's mutinous silence over the summer and surprised himself by curtly responding, "No, not tonight, thanks."

And before Arthur could respond to that, the phone was out of Harry's hand and back on the cradle.

He regretted this, of course. As Harry let himself collapse into his bed, exhausted and upset, it prodded at him, made him wonder if he was a good friend after. He put his glasses onto the bedside table and sank into his mattress as Sirius curled up at his feet, ever vigilant.

I wonder if Mad-Eye trained him for that.

As he lay on his there, trying in vain to get some sleep, it gnawed at Harry, how he'd ended his conversation with Mr. Weasley. What disturbed him the most was how he had turned down talking to his closest friend in the world out of spite, when Ron hadn't really done anything at all. Neither had Hermione for that matter, but he was just as upset with her.

In fact, it was the first time he could recall being angry with both of his best friends, and questioning his friendship with them.