A/N: Okay, so Half-Blood Prince has been released since this story was started (edit... and DH). What did that mean to this story? Well, in the main, absolutely nothing. Zip. Nadda. All my plot remained as intended. There are a couple of things that people might conceivably say are similar, one which is identical, which is relatively minor, and another thing which isn't - isn't identical or minor - but they have both been intended from the start. There are small areas where I may refer to things in the book, or keep my universe similar in some respects - for example, if you look carefully you may find an occasional hidden references to a Horcrux - and speaking of Horcruxes, they will not make the appearance they did in HBP. If they are mentioned, they will not affect the plot - the story will remain the same as it would have been were HBP still a year away. Oh, and like any author, I love feedback, so if you like the story, say so! :)

As regards this story, 'it' is all mine. Where 'it' is everything not owned by J.K. Rowling of course. Bah, I feel silly writing a disclaimer on a fan-fiction dedicated site... Kind of superfluous, no?

Chapter 1: A Normal Day, for an Abnormal Person

It was another hot July day, with the sun beating down onto parched grass, and scorched earth. The annual hose-pipe ban was in full flow, and the normally pristine lawns were withered and dying. Of course, most normal sixteen year old boys weren't bothered about the weather. Most normal sixteen year olds were inside, playing their respective consoles, with their other, normal, friends who would only leave the house when evening came, and the heat abated. Then, like most normal boys, they would go out, and find younger boys to beat up, and 'practice boxing' against, or find untouched public equipment to destroy.

Harry James Potter however, was not a normal boy, as his aunt and uncle never tired of telling him. What normal boy would be sitting outside on the hot ground, hidden from sight of the road, peering through glasses that looked as though they were held together by magic at a newspaper? What normal boy would pour through the said paper, looking more and more worried as he finished each article? Of course, if you listened to Harry's Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia, what normal boy would read at all?

Vernon and Petunia Dursley were right about one thing however, Harry Potter in fact wasn't what you would call normal. Harry Potter; was a wizard. Not just that however, Harry Potter was the wizard that had defeated the most evil, sadistic, violent wizard in centuries when he was just a baby. And more than this – Harry Potter was top of the newly resurrected Lord Voldemort's hit list.

Sitting here was as close as Harry could get to not being cooped up – if he remained inside then the best he could hope for was to go upstairs, to his tiny room, and be ignored completely. The worst case scenario was to be verbally abused by his aunt, uncle, and cousin. Thankfully the physical abuse seemed to be over for this year – his aunt and uncle weren't afraid of him, as he couldn't use magic out of school, but they were afraid of Mad-Eye Moody and his rolling eye. Of course, if he left the grounds of the house, then the best he could hope for was to be met by annoyed members of Dumbledore's Order of the Phoenix, and sent back home with strict instructions not to leave again. The worst… was the thing that Harry had tried to avoid thinking about the most this summer. Well. Almost the most, he corrected himself.

Harry had only once left the house for a walk this summer, and that was when he didn't trust himself to take anymore of the Dursleys' constant insults and orders. As luck would have it, he ran into Snape, and the words that Snape had for him were as predictable, as they were unjust and barbed. Professor Severus Snape, the Potions master at Hogwarts, and Harry had a bond of mutual enmity between them that was seemingly impossible to break. For Professor Snape the hatred was born out of abhorrence of the father more than the son. He saw James Potter as an arrogant boy that had strutted around the school as if he owned it, didn't care for rules, and bullied people he ran into. It probably didn't help matters that James also happened to be the top student in the school, and constantly outshone Snape in everything he did.

The problem for Harry; was that he couldn't help but wonder if this hatred was in fact reasonable – this was possibly third in his list of things to avoid thinking about this summer. From Harry's point of view, however, the fault for this less than savoury relationship between them was all Snape's., because he was unable to separate father from son in his head. Snape had been unfairly criticising him, taking house points off him, and trying to get him expelled since the first day they had met.

After the meeting with Snape, Harry had spent his days as close to the boundaries of his relations' property as possible, only venturing inside when he had to. The first week since Harry had returned to Number 4 Privet Drive from school had passed by without any deaths, at least, but with many calls for the resignation of Minister Fudge, and many articles of advice in the Defence Against the Dark Arts that was going to become vital in the next few years – and possibly longer they claimed, although Harry was sure that Voldemort wouldn't wait that long. And once Voldemort had struck, there would only be two outcomes. He, Harry, would have murdered Voldemort, or Harry and his closest friends would be dead, and the wizarding and Muggle worlds doomed.

Since that first week however, wizards and Muggles had started dying, with a terrifying green mark over the area of death the only sign of the culprits. Hundreds had died: wizard-borns, Muggle-borns, and Muggles, and a Muggle was the only one who had managed to kill one of his assailants. The way the Daily Prophet told it, it sounded like the Muggle farmer had heard intruders, reached for his shotgun, and pumped pellets into a Death Eater from close range before being tortured and killed by the Death Eater's comrades. The Death Eater – Vanda Murdock – had been left behind when the other Death Eaters had disapparated away, leaving a lead for the Ministry in the hunt for Voldemort's followers. Voldemort had been most displeased that a mere Muggle had managed to deplete his numbers. Harry knew. He had punished the offending people in his dream last night. He had found out why the next morning.

Harry's hands were trembling – all of it was his fault! If he hadn't prevented Professor Lupin and Sirius from killing Pettigrew two years ago, Voldemort wouldn't have been resurrected. Sirius. He had killed him. He lived through it again and again at night. Sometimes he held the wand, sometimes Voldemort, or Bellatrix Lestrange did, but each time he saw Sirius come to his aid, and each time he could do nothing but watch the wand raise, and hear the cruel words: 'Avada Kedavra!' Sirius' body would fall back, a look of astonishment and accusation on his face, and then … disappear. Harry had seen the veil so often in his dreams; he could picture it perfectly in his head even when awake.

He was pulled from his thoughts by a sudden crash of thunder. Looking up with a start, he could see nothing but blue skies and sun. Then –

"BOY! COME HERE THIS INSTANT!" Vernon Dursley, roared.

Harry folded the newspaper in two, and looked to his right, where the yelling had come from. He took a double take. A small thundercloud was settled over a clump of begonias, raining hard, and producing mini lightning bolts which flashed brightly, although they didn't seem to be doing anything particularly harmful to Harry. The parched begonias looked rather grateful for the water, and seemed to perk up in front of Harry's eyes. Before he could stop himself, he laughed. It wasn't a genuine laugh, however. It was missing something imperceptible. That had been missing since that night in the Department of Mysteries. Almost at once, the thundercloud disappeared.

Uncle Vernon was advancing menacingly towards him. "What the DEVIL do you mean by this boy? We told you… we warned you… there is to be none of your abnormality around here, not even a mention of it! Understand?"

"I'm not the one yelling about it in the middle of Privet Drive." Harry replied coolly, removing his wand from his pocket, and holding it in his right hand, which was hanging loosely by his side. "It was an accident – I can't help it."

"Don't you take that tone with me, boy!" Vernon Dursley's face was turning an all too familiar shade of puce. "You will go inside and wait for me in the kitchen – do you understand? And put that thing away!" he hissed.

"Fine –" Harry shrugged before continuing "– I'll see you in a minute then."

Harry walked inside slowly, purposely keeping his wand out, willing himself to stay calm, and not cause any more accidental magic. He wasn't sure if accidental magic was an expellable offence or not – he guessed not, as he had done some last year which wasn't mentioned at his hearing, but he didn't want to take any chances. Anyway, it would make the Dursleys harder to handle. Harry wasn't afraid of the Dursleys anymore. He had his wand – he could do far more to them than they could to him. But, he might end up blowing the house to smithereens if the Dursleys riled him enough and he wasn't careful. At least he wouldn't have to worry about Voldemort then, he thought humourlessly.

"What are you doing in the house, boy?" Aunt Petunia's shrill voice interrupted his thoughts again.

As much as Harry wanted to retort that he lived in the house too, he forced himself to reply in a neutral tone. "Uncle Vernon wanted to talk to me."

Aunt Petunia sniffed. "Sit down then, and don't you dare make a sound."

Harry had given up asking her about how she knew Dumbledore, and in any case, did not want to get into more trouble than he was undoubtedly already in. He watched Petunia Dursley potter about the kitchen for a while, wondering for the umpteenth time how he was related to the Dursleys. After all, his mother and father were clever and magically powerful, wanted to make a difference to the world and sacrificed their lives for him, when he was a baby. He found it hard to believe that Lily Potter would, like her sister, have stayed home, and brought up a spoilt brat as a child, eavesdropping on their neighbours' conversations, and using her nephew as a slave to keep the house spotless and the garden immaculate. He couldn't imagine his father bullying his nephew for fun – he stopped. What about Snape?

James Potter had certainly embarrassed Snape when he had had the chance. The scene he had seen in Dumbledore's pensieve was forever etched in his memory. Sirius and Lupin had told him Snape was into the Dark Arts, and James had always hated the Dark Arts. Was that really an excuse though? Snape had called his mother a Mudblood. Could he see himself using his wand on a Slytherin simply because of their Pureblood mania?

Malfoy definitely, but wouldn't it just be an excuse to curse Malfoy then? With everything Malfoy had done and tried to do to him, Harry felt he had every reason in the world to curse Malfoy. But he knew he wouldn't pick on Malfoy just because he was bored, like James and Sirius had. Whenever something happened between him and Malfoy, Malfoy was the one that instigated it all. The one thing he hung on to, was the idea that it sounded like the Marauders and Snape had been going at each other from day one. Maybe James Potter and Sirius Black were merely playing to the crowd when they said the problem was just that Snivellus – Snape – existed.

Sirius and Lupin had said that his father had grown up, had stopped cursing everyone he met, and even if he still did curse Snape from time to time it was only because Snape would curse him if given half the chance. But the fact remained, that he, like Dudley, had sought out people who were weaker than he was, and then magically 'beat them up' just like Dudley beat up the few children younger than him that didn't run away on sight.

Harry caught sight of Uncle Vernon passing the window with the begonias that Harry had magically watered snapped and the life wrung out of them, and shook his head in disbelief. They were so completely afraid of magic that they had to dispose of anything touched by it. He was more than slightly amazed that his books and trunk had lasted over the summer in his first few years at school. He couldn't help the feeling, either, that Aunt Petunia was the only reason he also hadn't been cast into the rubbish like those flowers. He clenched his fist around his wand and brought it up onto the table.

"Don't you point that thing at me boy." Aunt Petunia snapped.

"I wasn't -"

"How dare you threaten your aunt, Potter?"

"I didn't -"

"Put that … that … away this instant!"

Harry's effort to remain calm vanished. He was tired of it all. Of having spent years of neglect here, knowing nothing about where he was from. Of having been the one that had to deal with Voldemort's plots to kill him each year. Of having been kept out of the loop through all of last year. Of having so many friends and innocents deaths weighing on his conscience.

He swung around at Uncle Vernon, and pointed the wand at him. Jumping off his chair, he advanced on the man, red and gold sparks emanating from the wand tip, dissolving as they hit Vernon Dursley's shirt. Harry's uncle yelped, and retreated hastily back into the doorway he had just come through.

"Don't… Don't you try any funny stuff, boy. They'll throw you out of the madhouse, you know that. If you use that thing on me, then you can say goodbye to that freak school of yours! And don't… don't think you'll be allowed to stay here either!" he blustered.

"That's what you said last year too, remember? Guess what? I'm still at Hogwarts, and I'm still living here. I won't be expelled – they need me – they think I'm the only one who can get rid of Voldemort." He hesitated, as he realised what he had just admitted. "Look, I don't want to hex you but I don't really mind that much if you make me. Just… sit down, and, who knows, we might not have to yell whatever we're saying. And don't even think about trying anything. I'll use this if I have to."

Mr and Mrs Dursley gasped. Whether it was at the fact that he'd at last stood up to them, even threatened them, or the fact that he had admitted he was the only person who could kill Lord Voldemort, he wasn't sure. He had the feeling it was the former. Why would his uncle and aunt care about the whole world, when their ability to bully him was in question? Petunia was speechless, but Vernon looked like he was torn between fury and terror.

"I will not be talked to like this boy! You'll apologise and listen to me if you know what's good for you… you… y…" Harry moved the wand closer to his face, and his Uncle sidestepped his way to a chair and sat down, trailing off.

Dudley had appeared behind his father, a look of horror on his face. His hands clasped firmly behind him on his backside, and he edged towards his mother, in the opposite direction to his utterly defeated father.

"Hello, Big D." Harry greeted him coolly. "You don't have to stay here if you don't want, you can go back and watch TV. Oh and I'm not going to give you a pigtail, so stop grabbing your bottom. Although, who knows, maybe I will turn you completely into a pig if you don't watch out."

Harry wasn't sure why he was threatening Dudley – he only had a vague idea that it might be because he had nearly sixteen years of being on the other end to make up. Dudley had actually not been too bad this year. He seemed to have at last realised that Harry had saved his life last year rather than tried to kill him. Whether he had accepted that he had nearly killed them both by punching Harry, Harry wasn't sure.

"How dare you threaten my ickle Duddy-kins!" Aunt Petunia had found her voice again, and was the latest to find a wand directed at her. "We took you in, looked after you, we saved your life by letting you live here. If it wasn't for us, Lord Voldemort could just walk in, point his wand at you, and you'd be dead – and we wouldn't have to look after you anymore."

"Look after me? Look after me?" Sparks were flying out of Harry's wand at ferocious speeds now, matching his emotions.

The cupboards and drawers started to shake, and the cutlery rattled. The light was switching itself on and off, and the curtains had closed themselves. There could have been an earthquake, or cyclone affecting the area. A glass fell off one of the surfaces, and shattered; one of the cupboard doors came apart completely from its hinges, and hit Dudley in the leg, who yelled. Harry glared at them, and the glass repaired itself, and floated back into position, while the cupboard door reattached itself. Dudley stopped yelling. Harry barely noticed, but rather continued angrily: "You call shutting me in a cupboard, lying about who I was, who my parents were, letting Dudley use me as a punch bag…"

As he spoke, Petunia walked shakily over to the glass and examined it.

"You did magic!" She whispered.

Harry was so shocked to hear a note of concern in her quavering voice that he stopped mid sentence and all signs of magic – and his anger – abated.

"They'll expel you. You're not allowed. Quickly – go upstairs."

"You heard your aunt – you're done for now. You did magic, you can't tell me you'll get away with all that now! Now go upstairs!" Uncle Vernon's tone was different to his wife's – while not as furious as previously, it sounded strangely gleeful.

"I'll tell them it wasn't you Harry, you must go!" There was anxiety in her voice now as she walked over to open the curtains once more.

Harry looked at her, perplexed. "Who else would it be? I'm the only witch or wizard around here – they told me that at my hearing last year. And why do you care, anyway?"

"If you're the only one that can kill… him … you can't be arrested. I'll… I'll tell them it was me, just go upstairs and I'll lock you in – quickly, before they come!"

It was Harry's turn to be speechless, he couldn't help but feel that Aunt Petunia knew about the prophecy, and not just from what he had let slip earlier. Not only that, but it seemed like Aunt Petunia had some concept of the danger the whole world was in. But that she was willing to protect him? He couldn't believe that. He stood looking at the Dursleys mutely for half a minute, until he finally found his voice.

"It's accidental magic, I didn't mean to do any of it. They won't arrest me for this, it's okay." I hope. "They only arrest people for wand magic outside of school I think. I didn't use my wand." Suddenly he remembered what she had said – "Why did you think they'd believe you did it Aunt Petunia? They know that you're all Muggles – I mean – normal people. You can't do magic, they'll know that."

Dudley and Uncle Vernon flinched at the word magic, and Uncle Vernon had gone a little redder at the word Muggle, but Aunt Petunia simply turned white and then even into a shade of grey. As Harry finished, she became flustered, and looked around at her husband, but not for support it seemed, but rather apologetically. She looked behind her for a chair, and fell into it. When Harry continued staring at her, wand now by his side, she took a deep breath, gulped, tried to speak and failed.

"Petunia, dear, what is it?" asked Uncle Vernon

"Vernon, I'm… sorry. I… I… when I was- was seven, I… had fallen and broke my ankle. I had to stay lying down all day." She gulped again, "I wanted a glass of water, but I couldn't get up to get it. The- the glass just… flew into my hand." Uncle Vernon gasped, and talking to him now, she continued, "I was so ashamed of what I'd done that I didn't tell anyone. I was not going to let myself become a… become a freak! I was going to be a normal woman, with no hint of any unnaturalness – I wouldn't disappoint my parents – so when that damned letter came for me; I burnt it before my parents could see it. Two more letters came, each trying to get me to go to that awful place, but I burnt them both, before my parents could see them and realise what I was.

"Then Lily got the same letter three years later, and she didn't care about becoming abnormal, or a freak. And my parents encouraged her. They sent her off to that school and bought her everything she needed. She came back each summer more different and strange than the last, and my parents were proud! They didn't see her for the weirdo she was. For the freak that I refused to be, for them! And then that Voldemort appeared and … he … and he killed them – all because of Lily meeting that" – she pursed her lips – "that Potter boy, and having you." She said viciously at Harry. "And then you were attacked and Lily and her good for nothing husband died, leaving us with you and I was told that you were the only one that could kill this Voldemort for good, and that you had to stay with us, as you'd be safe here until you could fight him." Aunt Petunia had seemingly forgotten about explaining about magic and gone onto a rant about Lily and Harry.

"Petunia? What… What are you saying, dear?" Uncle Vernon looked like his whole world had been turned upside down, which it probably had.

"Hang on. Are you saying you're a witch?" It was Harry's turn to feel weak and look for a chair. His head was swimming.

His aunt looked furious, his Uncle looked like he was about to faint.

"How dare you call me that! I refused to let that freakish behaviour control me, I forced it out."

"Okay, okay – but … but are you… you are saying that you once had the ability to do magic right?"

His Aunt looked like she was being forced to eat a lemon. "Yes." She spat.

"Well… you do know that magic is just a part of you, that you can't stop it, right?"

"Just because you want to be a freak and refused to let us stamp it out of you, boy, doesn't mean that your aunt can't. She is completely normal, and proud of it. R–Right Petunia?" While Uncle Vernon undoubtedly wanted to either threaten or insult Harry, he sounded more like he wanted to believe what he was saying himself. Dudley let out a squeak of terror.

"Perfectly right, Vernon." Aunt Petunia said decisively. "I haven't done magic once since I was seven. I was strong enough to destroy it."

Harry let out a frustrated sigh, his temper boiling over once more. "You idiots know nothing whatsoever about magic, do you? You've refused to even accept it exists for years. I, however, have been in the magical world for five years and have learnt about this kind of thing for those five years. Trust me," He stressed, "you can't get rid of the magic inside you. It's not even a bad thing to have it! There's nothing wrong with having magic."

"Be quiet you insolent boy!" His aunt shrieked. "We know far more about things than you do. Magic isn't natural,; of course it's wrong to have it. I destroyed it. As you ought to have done!"

"You fools!" Harry yelled, eyes flashing, and wand back out. "You can't change the world to fit into your own little world. Magic exists and you can't do a damned thing to stop it." He kicked back his chair, and advanced upon Aunt Petunia once more.

Aunt Petunia was looking up at him, eyes wide open fearfully. As Harry advanced, his wand ripped out of his hand, and flew towards his aunt. It landed gently in her grip. She looked at it in horror, and flung it back at Harry, hitting him on the forehead, clattering on the floor.

Harry stooped to pick it up and shouted at her as he rose again. "You destroyed the magic then did you? What do you call that then?"

"No… I didn't… I couldn't have… I refuse to… No…" She whispered in horror.

"That, aunt, was a disarming charm." Harry lectured sarcastically. "Expelliarmus it's called. It disarms a man, woman or other creature of whatever it's holding. I used it against an Acromantula once, a huge six foot spider."

"No… It can't be… I can't have…" Aunt Petunia hung her head in apology to Vernon. "I… I'm sorry Vernon…"

"Why should you have to apologise? There's nothing wrong with doing magic. There's nothing wrong with being a witch or wizard!" Harry asked, rolling his eyes.

"I… I don't want to be a freak…" His aunt whispered, barely audible, tears welling up in her eyes.

Oh Merlin! Harry moaned to himself. Aunt Petunia's a witch and doesn't want to be one… No wonder she doesn't know whether to hate me or help me – she's jealous of my mother, and blames mum and me for her parents – my grandparents – dying. What an absolute mess!

"Why doesn't Dumbledore ever tell me anything?" Harry burst out savagely. "I thought he'd said he tell me everything after… after the Mi- OW! Oh for Merlin's SAKE!"

An owl had just come though an open window and crashed into his head. It was a small owl – almost a feathery ball, and Harry recognised Pig immediately. He grabbed the note roughly and then threw Pig back through the open window. It was only when Pigwidgeon hooted merrily that Harry wondered where exactly this foul temper had come from. He had never taken his anger out on friends quite so viciously before.

"Hey Pig! Come back a second!"

The owl fluttered back hooting shrilly as if he had rather enjoyed the experience of being thrown like a tennis ball, and was looking forward to it again. Harry poured some water into a small glass and let the bird dip its beak in it. Pig flew up to his shoulder after he'd taken his fill, nibbled his ear and hooted softly, in what he must have thought was an affectionate way, and then flew through the window for a fourth time.

"Thanks Pig, I 'preciate it." Harry muttered softly as the owl disappeared.

He turned to the three Dursleys, who were looking at him dumbstruck with matching expressions of terror on their faces – almost as if they thought he was a madman who might explode at any moment. His temper flared for a second at their view of magic which was replaced by a feeling of pity – curiously, for Dudley most of all. As his emotions changed, his scar pounded in pain, and he clapped his hands to his forehead, screwing his eyes up against the agony.

Aunt Petunia was the first to find her voice. "Dudley, Harry, I want you in your rooms or out of the house: I have to talk to your father, Dudders dear."

Harry was all too happy to oblige, and, one hand still clapped to his scar, he staggered upstairs, to his room. Dudley stayed behind with his ear to the door, reminding Harry forcibly of the letter that had told him he was a wizard. His scar hurt even more.

In the small box room that was his bedroom, Harry fell onto his bed, and smothered his head in a pillow, trying to muffle the pain in some way. It didn't help one bit. There was a searing pain that started off at the scar, and shot right through the back of his head, as if there was a hot poker stuck there. He heard yelling down below, but couldn't register what was being said. Try as he might to think of something to divert his attention from the agony, he couldn't concentrate. He tried focussing on the pain, dividing it up into smaller bits, concentrating on the pain of one of them, and trying not to think of the rest, but it was no use. An image flashed into his head of a graveyard, and a cold voice saying: "Crucio!"

Tom Marvolo Riddle Sr's grave. His parents had saved him then. Along with Cedric, they had helped him escape from Voldemort. Even dead, they had continued to watch over him.

The pain faded. Harry dimly registered that he was screaming, and stopped immediately. The house was deadly quiet aside from some quiet hoots from Hedwig. He rolled over onto his back, taking his head out of the pillow, panting heavily, as if he had just run a mile at full tilt. Away from a horde of Death Eaters, and Voldemort himself.

The sound of Tekken being fired up on Dudley's Playstation interrupted the silence and murmurs could be heard faintly from downstairs. Harry stood up slowly, limbs aching as if he truly had undergone the Cruciatus curse again. Slowly and gingerly, he walked over to Hedwig's cage, and opened it. Hedwig swept out immediately, and flew to Harry, hooting reassuringly all the time. She buffeted him gently with her wing and nibbled on his ear as though she was trying to calm him down. Harry felt his cheek glisten and quickly wiped away the tear, reaching up to stroke Hedwig. She flew over to some parchment on Harry's desk, picked it up in her talons and brought it to Harry. Her meaning couldn't be clearer. Harry made a sound between a shaky laugh and a hiccough.

"What would I do without you Hedwig, eh?"

He walked over to the desk, and slumped down into the chair. Every move was an effort. He scribbled down two brief messages nearly illegibly.

Dear Professor Dumbledore,

We need to talk in person. Soon, and preferably not in Privet Drive.



To whichever order member Hedwig finds first,

Please get this short message to the headmaster ASAP.



Enclosing them in the same envelope, Harry sealed it, and tied it to Hedwig's leg.

"Thank you girl. Can you give this to either Mrs Figg, or else any other Order member, if you see them first?"

Hedwig hooted reassuringly and flew through the window Harry opened as swift as an arrow. Harry sank back on to the bed. He wasn't sure what had happened, but he knew it was serious. Annoyed as he might still be by Dumbledore's treatment of him, he knew Dumbledore would be the only one who could give an answer, or help. Occlumency, a voice whispered to him. You killed Sirius by not doing it, and you're going to kill more people now.

"I haven't killed anyone!" Harry yelled.

"YOU LOSE!" echoed through the wall from Dudley's room, and he suddenly registered that voices had stopped talking from down below. Harry punched the pillow on his bed, hard. His temper had flared up again, but it was a weary sort of anger now. A helpless anger. He rolled over onto his back and lay on the bed silently, trying not to think about anything. He could make out some of what his aunt and uncle were saying now, or at least his uncle.

"The boy's mad and dangerous! Listen to him. You saw what he did. It was…" Uncle Vernon roared in the distance.

Aunt Petunia was speaking more quietly, and Harry couldn't make out the words.

"It's all Potter's fault, I'm telling you. You couldn't have, it couldn't have been…" Vernon was bellowing so much, that Harry wondered if neighbours would be coming round to complain. It seemed that Aunt Petunia was thinking the same thing, as Harry heard nothing for a few minutes until:

"You can damn well tell him that then!"

Again Harry couldn't make out what Aunt Petunia said.

"I want him out of the house! I will NOT have him threatening my family. I've had enough of his abnormality. Dudders' tail, Marge being blown up, those weirdoes that destroy the living room, those damn demented whats-its, I'm telling you Petunia, I've had enough of these freaks, and their magic tricks! It's not normal!" Harry heard a door slam, and gave a wry smile as he realised that Uncle Vernon was insulting his wife all the time that he complained about magic. It was the first true, escalating fight he'd ever heard them have.

The mentioning of the blowing up of the living room had reminded Harry of the letter Pigwidgeon had delivered. He rolled over to the side of the bed, and picked it up off the floor where he had dropped it when he came in. He ripped the envelope open untidily, and revealed Ron's untidy writing, and an unusually long letter.

Dear Harry,

How are you holding up mate? Summer's been about as good as you can expect here. Dumbledore's put wards all around the Burrow, Dad, Bill and Charlie have been reinforcing them all summer. Charlie's been apparating back and forth from Romania since the killings started, and is absolutely knackered, but he says that he isn't going to leave us now that You-Know-Who is starting an offensive.

Ginny's been helping the twins with their joke shop; I think she's planning on taking over from them this year now they're gone from Hogwarts. Mum's furious, she says that she has to think of her future, and get good O.W.L.s. Speaking of which, Fred and George have improved their Extendable-Ears to get round imperturbable charms, and from something Mum and Dad said, the Astronomy grades are going to be graded higher because of Umbridge and her goons going after Hagrid. Hermione's over the moon – I guess it means that she'll get 50 Outstandings or however many she's taking. Although, she probably would have anyway, come to think about it. Anyway, we should be getting our results any day soon. Would be great to see you when we get them – if I have Hermione owling me about where she lost 1 in Arithmancy, I might go insane… or worse! What if she uses the floo

Harry grinned. There was something about the way that Ron spoke or wrote, that made the simplest thing seem funny. Plus, he knew exactly what Hermione was like; he wasn't looking forward to her finding out how badly he was sure to have done in History of Magic. Just as he finished the paragraph, Hedwig flew back through the window, and over to Harry's side, where she perched keeping Harry company. Harry stroked her while reading on.

Mum says she's trying to persuade Dumbledore to let you come stay with us. She says that we have enough wards all over the place to keep you safe, but Dumbledore hasn't said yes yet. She's really upset because Percy is still being a prat, and she is worried about you. You know how she is. Fred and George tried to explain how many dangerous things we've done and how we're still all here, but it didn't help. I wonder why! Bighead Boy, as Fred and George are calling him again, is refusing to apologise, saying that Mum and Dad should have shown support for the Ministry, and that it divided the Wizarding community, or some rubbish. That guy has more screws loose than Loony Luna.

He scowled. He was being mothered, fathered or manipulated or whatever it was that Dumbledore does to him, and finds that Percy is still a git all in one paragraph.

The Lovegoods have come around quite a bit recently. Mum and Dad are trying to help them with wards against Death Eaters, Luna's father is just as mad as she is, not surprised, seeing as he edits the Quibbler. I guess the two of them are finding it a bit lonely. Luna keeps trying to talk to me though, I don't get it. I'd have thought she'd spend most her time talking to Ginny. Ginny claims Luna has a crush on me, you got any hints on getting rid of girls? I think they're hoping you'll give them another interview sometime though, so be careful! Supposedly the Cacky Haired Crumpet or whatever it is, left loads of interesting signs of its existence. Probably impossible to make out footprints or something, don't ask me… But don't ask them either, or you won't be able to say a word for hours.

The next piece of the letter was written in a scrawl as untidy as Harry's own had been just minutes before, was written in different coloured ink and by the looks of it, a different quill too.

Harry – Dad's just told me that there was 'sizable magical activity' near where you live. Is everything all right? Be careful, Dad thinks You-Know-Who might be trying to break the wards on your house. Charlie says to get your broomstick ready in case you are attacked. You can get away under your invisibility cloak if you fasten it properly. They're likely to torture the Muggles rather than kill them, so the Order should be able to help them. I'm sending Pig via the floo to Mrs Figg's and he'll fly from there. Send us a message as soon as you can if all is ok.


Harry swore and jumped up off his bed. His knees buckled and he landed with a thump on the floor. Pulling himself up, he hobbled over to the desk again. Hedwig followed him.


Magic was me by accident. Tried to stop it but couldn't. Don't think it was entirely the Muggles' fault, but not sure if it was Voldemort. Am okay, don't think VoldemortDeath Eaters are around, but will get my broom near in case.

Would like to see you all soon,


Attaching a note to Mrs Figg, asking her to send it to the Weasleys via floo powder, he tied it to Hedwig's leg, muttering as he did, "Sorry girl, but I need you to give this to Mrs Figg again; otherwise Ron and everyone might think I'm being attacked." Hedwig hooted comfortingly, and shot back out the window.

He limped over to his trunk, opened it, and grabbed his Firebolt and Invisibility Cloak. His school books stared up at him, and he couldn't help but feel a little guilty. He had been home for at least three weeks now, and had barely opened his school books. He didn't have his O.W.L.s yet, and therefore couldn't be sure about what subjects he'd be allowed to take. He did have a good idea however, of the subjects he wanted to study, and knew he should have at least looked at some of the books. He hadn't even looked at the Defence Against the Dark Arts books that Remus and Sirius had given him at Christmas.

Harry retreated back to the bed, magical artefacts in tow. Sirius would have found the whole thing downstairs rather funny. The hatred of the Magic world by the Dursleys, mirrored Sirius' parents' disgust of the Muggle world. Harry was sure that if one of Sirius' parents had suddenly dropped the bombshell that they were in reality a Squib or Muggle born, that there would have been uproar. Sirius would probably have taken every chance to remind his parents of that fact too. Harry sighed. Sirius had had a worse life than him. Disagreeing with his parents' Pure-blood mania, and being sorted into Gryffindor, he had become estranged from his parents at an early age.

Moving out as soon as he could, he had a few brief years of happiness – with Harry's parents, grandparents, and their friends being an important part of his life. Then of course, Harry's parents had died, Sirius had been wrongly accused, and had wasted most of his life in Azkaban, where he had the happiness literally sucked out of him, until his escape where he was constantly on the run, and then shut away until Harry caused his death a few weeks ago. Harry had only had fourteen; nearly fifteen years with the Dursleys, and had been away for most of the last five, Sirius had had thirteen non-stop with the Dementors. Try as the Dursleys might have had to take any happiness from him, they had never been able to do it quite as successfully as Dementors.

Harry didn't care what Professor Dumbledore had said, he knew, deep down, that Sirius' death was his fault. If he had just worked harder at the Occlumency, then he wouldn't have seen Sirius in the first place. If he had just thought it through, and realised he had been having the same dream for months, but had woken up before he could have seen Sirius, he'd have realised Voldemort was trying to trick him. The same as if he had just realised that Voldemort was, as Hermione had told him, counting on Harry playing the hero. If Harry had just remembered the present Sirius had given him, then he would have been able to check if Sirius was around and not have been fooled by Kreacher. There were so many things he could, and should have done that would have saved Sirius.

On a sudden impulse, Harry sat down on the bed, and concentrated on trying to rid his mind of emotion. Hedwig returned, and went out hunting again, and Harry barely noticed.