Full summary: An ancient prophecy, secrets to be unveiled and relationships being formed anew. This year things are about to change for more than one person, in more ways than one. Just to warn you now, this will be Harry/Draco and will involve a student/teacher relationship. Don't like, don't read!

Disclaimer: If I really owned it do you seriously think I'd be writing fanfiction about it? Exactly, now run along and sue someone else.

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Life was cruel. That was the conclusion one 17 year old boy had reached throughout the summer as his own life continued in its downward spiral until he was sure he wouldn't be able to drag himself back up again. Life gave, allowed you to enjoy for a short while, then snatched away before you could even catch your breath. He was tempted to whine and scream the age-old truth "it isn't fair" and smash anything, everything in sight, but the rational part of his brain that still existed, reasoned it would do no good. It wouldn't numb the pain, it wouldn't ease the dull ache in the pit of his heart, it wouldn't quell the feelings that were threatening to overwhelm him, and it wouldn't bring Sirius back. Nothing could do that and nothing could pull him back from the edge of the great precipice he was poised on and very nearly disappearing into.

He tore his eyes away from his reflection in the mirror, barely recognising the boy staring back at him. His eyes were dull and lifeless, his skin pale and his clothes hanging off his now painfully thin frame. What little food he attempted to eat didn't stay down very long, not that he saw much point in eating these days. His sleep was fitful, plagued with nightmares of Sirius passing through the Veil, or of Voldemort's return. He was frightened to close his eyes lest he find himself staring into Sirius's accusing, black ones; frightened of the images, memories, that would come to haunt him, torment him. It had been a year, he was supposed to have readjusted, to become accustomed to the grief and to have dealt with it all, but that was so much easier said than done. All around him was death, even in the deepest folds of sleep; he couldn't escape it, it was pulling him down, engulfing him in heavy oppressiveness, determined to break him. Only trouble was, it was beginning to succeed.

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Life was cruel. That was the opinion that was beginning to form for one 17-year-old boy as the summer came to an end. To say he was confused would have been an insult, to say he was angry would have been an understatement and to say he was beginning to re-evaluate all he had ever known, wouldn't even begin to cover it. There were no words, and he had tried to find them plenty of times to know that. Things weren't supposed to be this way; he wasn't meant to be sitting up in his room listening to his mother sob in the room next door, whilst all the time digging his fingernails into the flesh of his palms to stop his own tears from falling. He wouldn't cry, he had made that promise when all this began; he would keep his pride and his dignity if nothing else, he wouldn't allow them the satisfaction of seeing they'd broken him, even if they succeeded.

He slowly released the tension in his fingers and ceased them from digging into his flesh. His palm had four half-moon scars, each allowing a thin line of blood to seep out and trickle over his hand and down his wrist. In the end, that was what it came down to; blood. That was the reason his life was heading in the direction it was, and him powerless to stop it. The blood that coursed through his veins gave him his identity, placed him in the house he now was, gave him the surname he carried and shaped the reputation he was associated with. Up until a few months ago that was fine; he was proud of it, willing to adopt the life that was being laid out for him. Now, everything had changed, irrevocably so. He steeled himself, neatening his blond hair, which had become unhealthily limp, and prepared himself to go and offer comfort to his mother, now he was sure his father had left the house. He stopped momentarily to wipe the blood away; it wouldn't do to make a mess.

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Life was cruel. That was the realisation that was dawning in one 16 year old girl's mind as she sat staring into the distance, the goings-on around her not even registering. Why should she bother to acknowledge what went on? She was invisible to it, to everyone; she could start screaming until her lungs burst and it wouldn't make the slightest bit of difference. Not that she would do that anyway, the notion was somewhat ridiculous she thought as she sat musing on how life had changed her. It had been subtle; she'd give it that, she hadn't really started to notice until the end of her fourth year. Any naivety or innocence that might once have existed in her had been banished, dismissed as folly and useless nonsense. She no longer trusted people, she no longer took things at face value; she couldn't afford to. She wore a mask; the likes of which she was sure even Draco Malfoy would have difficultly rivalling. It was her security, her assurance that she wouldn't be hurt, her weaknesses wouldn't be exposed, rendering her vulnerable to attack. It was what kept her alive.

But that didn't mean she didn't feel; it was only on the outside she was cold. She still loved, and was loved thankfully, she still hated, she still burned; she just didn't show it. She'd exposed herself once before and what did it get her? Memories. Nightmares. She wasn't prepared to do that again, especially not when she was still battling with ghosts. And so she existed, living one day to the next, just trying to survive and pull herself through. It wasn't easy, she didn't expect it to be, but she wished she could be given something, shown something, that would make her believe it was all worth something. Anything that proved she wasn't fighting a losing battle.

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Life was cruel. That was the decision that had been reached many years ago by the Potions Master of Hogwarts and was now being evaluated as he sat in his quarters staring blankly into the fireplace that never accommodated a fire. He knew the Game, he was an experienced player, he knew the rules, the loopholes, the injustices, the hardships, the politics of it all; but knowledge didn't make it any easier. Knowledge and acceptance of the way of the Game didn't stop the turmoil of his feelings, didn't help him sleep at night and didn't stop him crying out in anger and frustration at the impolitic cruelty of it all. He had been forced into this existence, given no choice in the matter; the bitterness he felt at the whole situation was overwhelming. But it was his duty, he knew that. In his youth he had rebelled against it, tried to break free of the chains that held him, but instead he broke himself and had to return to the Old Ways, back to his duty. He had been a fool to think he could ever escape it.

But these things had a price, didn't everything? He had to lose what he loved, had to lose all the things that might once have made his life worth something. He had to endure that pain every day and even inflict more on himself, denying any chance to claim what was rightfully his. But it was hard, so very hard. So many times he had had the opportunity to change things, all it would have taken was a word, a gesture. But he couldn't be that selfish, he couldn't let his own wants and desires get in the way of something greater, something that could possibly save them all. He was used to pushing his own feelings aside, there were always things more important that himself, but what had been asked of him was a heavy burden to carry; one which he was beginning to struggle with. Fate was a cruel Mistress and one who had dealt him a rough hand; divided him from what happiness he might have had, stolen the life he might once have been able to live. It wasn't fair; but then, what was?

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Four souls sat separate from each other, mercifully oblivious to the changes Fate was making all around them, oblivious to the fact that their destinies were now becoming irrevocably intertwined. All were unaware that the wheels had been set in motion that were about to completely reshape their lives and restructure their whole futures.