Author's Note: This chapter has been edited for spelling and any other inconsistencies I was able to spot and correct. The changes are mostly slight changes in dialogue and sentence structure, but they needed to happen so here you go.

Pairings: None currently

Disclaimer: The Potter 'Verse belongs to JKR. I make no money.

//Parseltongue//

Thoughts & Mental conversations

Letters, etc.

It is hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head. - Sally Kempton

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Magic, End of term fifth year

"Why does he want to see us and not Harry, too?" Ron asked, tone weary. "I just want to go home and sleep for a week, y'know?"

"I know exactly what you mean," Hermione agreed, and stretched a little as her healed but aching injury pulled from activity. "Let's just find out what Professor Dumbledore wants so we can go back to the common room and rest."

"You're right, of course." Ron paused in front of the stone gargoyle and shook his head. "Did he give you the password this time?"

"Smarties," Hermione stated and stepped forward once the guardian had leapt aside. "For once he didn't make us try to figure it out ourselves. I think he knows we're all tired."

"Wonder what would've given him that bright idea?"

"Ron! Show some respect, at least." She shook her head and tried not to grin after chastising her friend. She happened to agree with him on this particular occassion.

Albus checked the map on his desk and nodded to himself when he saw the two students he was expecting. If there was one thing he could count on, it was Ron Weasley's overly impulsive and emotional nature and Hermione Granger's love of rules. They would play right into his hands as they always did.

"Come in," he called just as they got to the door.

Pushing the door open, Ron let Hermione precede him into the office, his eyes taking in the swaying, twirling and bobbling oddities that made him wonder about the older wizard's sanity. The amount of them that were obviously broken made his eyes widen in surprise.

"Hullo, Professor Dumbledore."

"Hello, my dear boy, and hello to you as well, Miss Granger. Have a seat. Tea, Lemon Drop?"

"Umm, no thank you, Professor," Hermione murmured reflexively. "You wanted to see us?" She glanced around the office with barely concealed curiosity and horror. "What happened to your office, Sir?" A blush crept up her cheeks when she realized she had blurted out the question. "Um, sorry…"

"That's quite alright, Miss Granger. It's a bit difficult to miss, don't you think? That is something I will explain to you in a moment. For now I need to impress upon the both of you how important it is that you absolutely do not owl Mr. Potter over the summer holidays." Dumbledore held up a hand to still their protests before they could even begin.

"Given the events of only a few weeks past, surely you should know that Voldemort will be after young Harry even more viciously than ever before. Owl post is not always as secure as we would like to believe and if letters or owls are intercepted or traced, then Harry's position could be compromised. For his safety, and that of your own families, please heed my request."

"But…that'll leave him all alone with those awful muggles. And right after losing…" Ron whispered his protest.

"I will do what I can to move him to Headquarters as soon as possible, but as you can see from the state of my office, Mr. Potter is experiencing even more control issues with his temper than is usual and I feel that some time alone to think and sort himself out might be just what he needs." Albus sighed softly, twinkle carefully subdued to convey his concern and disappointment.

"Please forward my request to your companions, as well. Now, off to your common rooms to rest before you have to pack up for the trip home."

Hermione took one last look around the office as she stood to leave and shuddered to think about how terribly angry Harry must have been to wreak so much havoc. What happened, what was said to set him off?

"Of course, Professor." She nodded and led Ron out, her movements a little reluctant as she lost herself in her musings. "See you September first."

Ron waited until his best friend became more aware of her surroundings before voicing his question. Something had really gotten her to thinking and he knew better than to interrupt her before she was ready to discuss her thoughts.

"You don't really think Harry did all that, do you?" Ron frowned intently and waited impatiently for her response.

"If something happened to push him over the edge, then yes," the intelligent witch murmured. "He had just, and I mean just lost his Godfather and had another battle with Voldemort." Hermione ignored Ron's wince for the most part. "Poor Harry is probably so torn up with blaming himself as usual that he might have done all that. I'd just like to know what the trigger was." She paused at the portrait of The Fat Lady.

"Victory," she stated and slipped through into the common room with Ron on her heels. Finding a private spot in a quiet corner, she sat down and cast a silencing spell so they could continue to talk. "The last thing he needs right now is to be alone, even if that's what he's telling himself. You know he'll try to push us away again, to protect us and all that." She sighed. "Besides, if Owl post is so unreliable and lacking in security, then why weren't we told this last year when Voldemort came back? If the Order is going to keep an eye on him, then why can't they give him his mail?"

"If we can't owl him without getting into trouble, then how are we going to keep from leaving him alone?" Ron commented. "Besides, you're the one who called it his 'saving people thing'."

"I'm not really sure about getting mail to him yet. I'm trying to think of another way, but it's a little complicated since none of us are old enough to do magic over the summer." Hermione sighed. "I'd say the muggle post, but I'm not sure his relatives would give him the letters…"

Eyes narrowed, Ron sat back to attack the problem like the chess game it was quickly beginning to resemble. He blinked and smacked himself on the forehead when an amazingly simple and painfully obvious option occurred to him.

"We are so daft! We should have thought of this way back before third year!"

"What is it?!" Hermione sat forward eagerly.

"Who stopped Harry from getting his mail, closed the portal to platform 9 ¾ and set bludgers after him all to keep him from being hurt by You-Know-Who in second year? Who would do absolutely ANYTHING to help Harry?"

A big grin graced Hermione's face before her expression fell.

"But it's not right to use a house elf like that…"

"So we ask him if he's willing to help us. If he says he can't, then we'll try something else, okay?"

"Okay…" Agreeing reluctantly, Hermione sat back to see what Dobby would say.

"Hey, Dobby!" Ron called out quietly and looked around to make sure no one was paying them anymore attention than usual.

"Silencing spell, Ron," Hermione reminded him with a grin.

"Oh. Yeah." Ron shrugged and grinned back despite his light blush.

A soft 'pop' signalled the arrival of one very hyper and easily excitable house elf. He bounced a little and smiled, large pale green eyes focused on Ron.

"Yes Mr. Wheezy?"

Hermione sniggered and straightened Dobby's hat affectionately. He still took and wore everything she knitted and left in the common room.

"Hi, Dobby."

"Hellos to yous toos, Miss Grangers." Dobby's grin widened. "How can Dobby be helping yous?"

"We need your help with Harry. Shhhh! He's okay! Relax," Ron muttered to calm the suddenly distraught elf. They might have a privacy spell up but if he got to bouncing around too much people were sure to get curious when they couldn't hear him. "Professor Dumbledore won't let us owl Harry this summer and we're worried about him being all alone."

"Would you be able to help us get letters to Harry without getting yourself in trouble? We know how much you love Harry," Hermione stated.

"Dobby is happy to be helping yous help Harry Potter. Dobby will help Harry Potter to the day hims die," he declared vehemently, then stilled as he sensed the approach of said young wizard. Collapsing Hermione's silencing spell, the little elf turned a surprisingly stern gaze in the young teen's direction. "Harry Potter, sir! Yous did not eat today," Dobby scolded gently. "Dobby is getting yous some dinner now."

Harry wandered over to see what Ron, Hermione and Dobby were talking about and smiled at the house elf's immediately protective statement. He almost protested until he saw the hopeful look on Dobby and Hermione's faces.

"Thank you, Dobby. Why don't you bring something for all three of us, if it's not too much trouble?"

Dobby simply nodded and vanished with another soft 'pop'.

Ron took in how sad and broken his best friend looked and fought the urge to hug him like his mom always did when someone was upset.

"The absolute last thing you need is to be left all alone right now, mate. Being alone when people you love die is the worst place to be."

"So everyone tells me," Harry mused. "But why shouldn't I be alone? I have the best friends in the whole world and I did a bloody good job of nearly getting all of you killed by falling for a stupid…"

"We went willingly, Harry James Potter! You didn't force us to do anything. You're not the first person to be fooled by Voldemort and you won't be the last," Hermione ranted and directed Harry to the third seat in 'their' area with an almost imperiously pointed finger. "So get it out of your head that everyone that dies because of something Voldemort does is your fault! It's not your fault. And don't even think of pushing us all away to protect us. You will not be alone this summer."

Taken aback by the bushy haired girl's direct statement, Harry blinked, sat down as her gesture had silently ordered and nodded his mute agreement. It wouldn't do him any good to argue with her when she was that sure of herself, anyway.

"Thank you," Harry whispered. "Really, I needed to hear that, but I just got back from talking to Dumbledore…"

"And he told you no owls, right?" Ron growled. "It's just bloody stupid, mate, the idea that owl post isn't safe. Besides, 'Mione and me, our families, we were all in danger before we met you, and all because of who we are. We'll come up with some way to get around the no mail, no owl thing."

"Yeah, well, he said he'd try to have me out at least for my birthday, but I'm not gonna hold my breath or anything," Harry commented despondently. "I hate going to live with those…muggles."

Dobby arrived with the requested meals and hung around to watch the Golden Trio interact until Harry finally ghosted off to bed. He knew there was something wrong with his wizard friend and he would do anything to help him heal whatever was damaged.

"Yous will be okay, Harry Potter. Dobby will help you," he vowed and a flash of magic sealed the vow as soon as he finished speaking it. He turned his head and nodded to Ron and Hermione. "Harry Potter is the greatest wizard of the Age. Dobby will helps you help him."

"Thank you so much, Dobby." Hermione hugged the small creature gently and wandered off to her own bed.

"You're the best, Dobby. Come see me tomorrow evening, okay? That way he'll get letters his first day home and he'll know we're serious." Ron headed to bed with a lighter heart than he'd had since the battle in the Department of Mysteries.

Discounting the rather amusing fracas between a handful of DA members and Malfoy and his two goons, the ride home on the train was the usual blur of snacks, conversation and games until it came time to gather their things and disembark. All Harry wanted to do was wait until everyone left and ride the train back to Hogwarts. Maybe then he'd have a good summer. He snorted derisively. Most likely not, considering the fact that Snape lived at the castle year round. Despite his reluctance, he took up Hedwig's cage and dragged his trunk from the train.

Stepping through the gateway between platforms nine and ten, Harry found a surprise waiting for him on the other side. Scarred and sinister Mad-Eye Moody stood waiting with his staff in hand. Hot pink hair gave away Tonk's presence as she urged a pale and greying Remus Lupin up to where he, too, was clearly visible to Harry. At the very front stood Molly and Arthur in their best impression of muggle clothing and Fred and George in what appeared to be neon green dragon hide.

"Ron, Ginny!" called Mrs. Weasley, hurrying forwards and hugging her children tightly. "Harry, dear — how are you?"

"I'm fine," lied Harry, as he submitted himself to her tight embrace. Over her shoulder he saw Ron goggling at the twins' new clothes.

"What are they supposed to be?" Ron asked, pointing at the jackets.

"Finest dragonhide, little bro'," said Fred, giving the zip on his jacket a little tweak. "Business is booming and we have an image to maintain."

"Hello, Harry," Remus murmured when Mrs Weasley finally let go of Harry and turned to greet the rest of her extended brood.

"Professor," said Harry. "I didn't expect . . . why are all of you here?"

"Well," said Remus with a conspiratorial smile, "we thought we might have a little chat with your Aunt and Uncle before we let them take you home." He studied the boy in front of him and was painfully disturbed by the dark emotions and rage he saw swirling behind his Cub's Avada Kedavra green eyes. The things he was seeing weren't healthy and he felt at a loss as to how to fix the problem without making a huge fuss that might well only make things worse than they already were.

"I don't know if that's a good idea," said Harry at once. "It's not like anyone has ever paid any attention to what they do to me or what I say about what it's like living with them, anyway and you know how they are about being bothered by 'Freaks'. This is just going to make things worse for me."

"Oh, but I think it's a wonderful idea to put a little fear of consequences into their closed off little brains," growled Moody, who had limped close enough to take part in their quiet conversation. "That'll be them, will it, Potter?" He nodded over his shoulder to indicate the trio of muggles.

Harry peered over the retired auror's shoulder and growled under his breath when he caught sight of the Dursleys, who looked equal parts appalled and terrified by Harry's reception committee. Hanging back to watch the 'show', he felt a deep hatred well up in his chest and was oblivious to just how utterly frightening his appearance was at that moment.

"Good afternoon," said Mr Weasley pleasantly to Vernon as he came to a halt right in front of him. "You might remember me. My name is Arthur Weasley."

Remembering how this red-haired freak had almost single-handedly destroyed his living room a few years prior, Vernon turned a deeper shade of puce and glared viciously at the gathered wizards. He ignored Petunia's embarrassed and frightened discomfort and Dudley's attempts at invisibility and drew himself up stiffly.

"We thought we'd just have a few words with you about Harry," said Mr Weasley, still smiling.

"Yeah," growled Moody. "About how he's treated when he's at your place. About what that young man has been through over the last couple of years. About how dangerous it could be for you and yours to push him too far this summer."

Vernon's moustache seemed to bristle with indignation. Perhaps the bowler hat gave him the entirely mistaken impression that he was dealing with a kindred spirit because he addressed himself to Moody.

"I am not aware that it is any of your business what goes on in my house! "

"I expect that what you're not aware of would fill several dozen books, Dursley. Look at him, you idiot muggle! Look at that young man and don't even try to tell me he doesn't scare you," growled Moody. "It would be in your best interests to leave him alone if you want to have a nice, quiet, normal summer."

"That really isn't the point," interjected Tonks, whose pink hair seemed to offend Petunia more than all the rest put together, for the thin, pinched older woman closed her eyes rather than look at the vivacious young Auror. "The point is, if we find out you've been horrible to Harry again…"

"And make no mistake, we will hear about it," added Remus pleasantly.

"Yes," said Mr. Weasley, "even if you won't let Harry use the felly-tone…"

"Telephone"'hissed Hermione.

"Yeah, if we get any hint that Potter's been mistreated in any way, you'll have us to answer to after he gets done with you," stated the grizzled ex-Auror.

Vernon swelled ominously. The very thought that that wretched little freak would so much as dare to raise that stick of his towards his family was a preposterous allegation. His sense of outrage seemed to outweigh even his fear of this bunch of odd looking goofballs and urged to take a step forward to prove how unafraid he was.

"Are you threatening me, sir?" he said, so loudly that passers-by actually turned to stare.

"If it would get your damned attention, then yes, I would do a lot more than threaten you, but in all actuality, no one is threatening you. If that boy doesn't live with you during the summer until he is seventeen years old, then the wards on your house that protect you, your family and Harry will fail," said Mad-Eye, who seemed rather hopeful that Vernon would grasp this fact quickly.

"And if those wards fail, then the evil bastards who want him dead will come knocking on your door and they won't leave any of you alive. Do you understand me, Dursley?"

"Do I look like the kind of man who can be intimidated? Who could be in any way be intimidated by that scrap of a freakish boy?" barked Vernon. He turned to glower at the afore mentioned teen and went white as a sheet as glowing, icy cold green eyes glared back at him with more venomous hate than he could recall ever having seen directed at anyone in his life.

"Well . . ." said Moody, pushing back his bowler hat to reveal his sinisterly revolving magical eye. Vernon leapt backwards in horror and collided painfully with a luggage trolley. "Yes, I'd have to say you do, Dursley."

He turned away from Vernon to survey Harry, a barely noticeable shudder of discomfort racking his body when he caught sight of the boy's feral visage. Composing himself, he resettled his bowler hat and strode over to look down at the angry teenager.

"So, Potter . . . send us an owl if you need us. If we don't hear from you for three days in a row, we'll send someone along . . ."

Petunia whimpered piteously. It could not have been plainer that she was thinking of what the neighbours would say if they caught sight of these people marching up the garden path.

"Bye, then, Potter," said Moody, grasping Harry's shoulder for a moment with a gnarled hand.

"Take care, Harry," Remus murmured quietly. "Write if you have any problems or if you just need someone to talk to."

"Harry, we'll have you away from there as soon as we can," Mrs. Weasley whispered, hugging him again.

"We'll see you as soon as we can, mate," said Ron anxiously, shaking Harry's hand.

"Really soon, Harry," said Hermione earnestly and hugged him tightly despite how stiffly he stood in her embrace. Her friend was suffering in his usual silence and she was determined to break him free of it. "We promise."

Harry nodded stiffly, bursts of memories and emotions that made no sense to him fuelling his chilling demeanour. He couldn't find the words to tell them what it meant to him, to see them all ranged there, on his side. Instead, he smiled crookedly, raised a hand in farewell, turned around and led the way out of the station towards the sunlit street, with Vernon, Petunia and Dudley hurrying along in his wake.

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Albus Dumbledore was not a happy wizard. A substantial amount of his tracking devices had been permanently damaged and outright resisted his every effort to repair them despite employing every perceivable method of repair. The fact that such a young wizard's power could defy his own clearly superior and far better trained magical ability only served to add further fuel his ire.

"Spend your holiday with your family, alone, hungry and isolated and we'll see if you aren't a bit better mannered when you're 'rescued' a week before school starts, you little brat."

Pulling out a sheet of parchment, he penned a letter to the Dursleys and gloated privately to himself over his spark of genius. "Your parents never gave me this much trouble. I really wonder where you got such a stubborn streak. Your grandparents, perhaps. James and Lily were such sweet, mouldable children. Why couldn't you be more like them?"

A snort from the shelf behind him drew his attention to the worn and rumpled old Sorting Hat. Arching a bushy grey eyebrow at the magical artefact, he frowned.

"What are you snorting about, Alistor?"

Disturbed and more than a little put off by the arrogance of the school's current headmaster, the Sorting Hat listened to the man ramble on and filed it all away for future reference. It was looking more and more like he and the young Potter Heir needed to have a heart to heart discussion.

"What, exactly, do you think to accomplish by abusing the Chosen child?"

"I know what I am doing, especially in regards to Mr. Potter. He is our one weapon against Voldemort and I intend to see him hardened and ready for the task that awaits him. I made the mistake of caring too much for him in the past and look how he has repaid me. He runs off without consulting me and destroys my belongings…"

"Funny how the main things that broke are devices you set to track his progress," the Hat interrupted with an amused sound. "Poor Albus can scarcely tell anything about the boy now." He laughed raucously when the elderly wizard sent an angry look in his direction.

"These items are but a mere pittance, a pittance I will see taken out of his hide if I can manage it discretely enough," Albus declared with quiet confidence.

"Events have a way of going in the Chosen child's favour," Alistor countered. "Have a care that you do not under-estimate him as badly as you clearly over-estimate your own importance in current events."

Little Whinging, #4 Privet Drive

The ride home from King's Cross Station was, if possible, more tense and strained than normal. Harry drifted in between angry, hate-filled lucidity and a calm, quiet void that reminded him suspiciously of the Imperious curse; memories that sickened him warred with love filled recollections of his brief time with his parents as years old spells fell apart in his mind. A whimper from the other side of the car drew his attention to Dudley and he took an inordinate amount of satisfaction from the larger boy's fearful reactions.

"Don't worry ickle Dudderkins. The big bad wizard won't hex you unless you give me a really good reason," he whispered and returned his attention to vacantly gazing out the side window. The sheer normality of Little Whinging sickened a part of him and he wasn't sure why – it had never bothered him this much before. Arriving at Number Four Privet Drive, he dragged his things up to the smallest bedroom and closed the door on the world.

Sitting on his bed later on in the evening of his first night back at Number Four Privet Drive, Harry thumbed through his text books and shook his head, face showing a clear expression of disgust. He could kick himself for not paying more attention in class, for not working harder on everything in general. Not only might he have avoided some problems with Voldemort, but he might also still have Sirius. He really wasn't sure if studying Transfiguration or Charms any more closely would have made a difference in Cedric's survival, but he had to consider the possibility. A quiet voice made comment on his train of thought.

No, being more studious most probably would not have helped Cedric, but listening to your Slytherin side a bit more might have saved you a lot of grief right long with saving your Godfather.

Harry blinked in surprise. The voice was vaguely familiar and, unfortunately, made a lot of sense. His 'Slytherin side' as he had always called it, was generally less trusting and far more likely to look out for his own best interests before it took another's needs into account. It was the self-same set of instincts that had kept him alive so far.

Yeah, my Slytherin side, he mused. So, not only is it my fault for not listening to 'Mione when she tried to tell me it was a trap…it's my own bloody fault for not listening to my self. Sirius…I'm so sorry… That nagging, familiar voice broke into his thoughts before he had a chance to really wallow in his grief and feelings of guilty responsibility.

Oh, get over yourself already. There is no one to fault when another person dies except those directly involved in the event. You didn't control Sirius Black any more than you could have controlled that insane house elf, Kreacher.

Harry suddenly started to feel nervous. Since when did his inner voice answer him? Since when did it give advice in such a direct manner? Wasn't it Hermione who had commented that, even in the wizarding world, it was considered very bad to be hearing voices?

He dropped that particular train of thought and made a concerted effort to get back to his studies. Maybe, just maybe, he could focus on the books deeply enough to dream of homework instead of everything else that was likely to plague his nightmares.

A soft 'pop' disturbed him from his reading a few hours later, and to his surprise, there stood Dobby with a heaping tray of food and what appeared to be several letters.

"Dobby?"

"Yes, Harry Potter, sir. Dobby has brought yous favourite dinner and letters from yous family."

Stomach rumbling the instant he smelled good, hot food, Harry stretched and accepted the proffered tray.

"Thank you, but…why are you here, Dobby? Won't you get into trouble for leaving Hogwarts or something?"

"Dobby is appreciating yous being worried, Harry Potter, sir, but Dobby is not bonded to anyone at Hogwarts, so hims is going where ever Dobby pleases to." The little elf smiled. "Yous Wheezy and Granger is worried about yous, so they is asking Dobby to bring you letters and food. Dobby is also taking yous letters to yous friends. Dobby would do anything for Harry Potter."

Stunned to the point of tears by the display of loyalty and love by all involved, Harry sniffled quietly and swiped at his face. Taking a deep breath, he composed himself and gave the elf a brilliantly happy smile.

"So, that's what you three were talking about the other night, huh? This is brilliant! Thank you, Dobby. If you ever need a place to stay, you are always welcome with me," he stated, unaware of the direct implications his words might have for the small elf. "Do you mind staying for a while, or at least until I read my letters and write my replies? Or do you need to go soon?"

Speechless, the house elf took a long moment to process what the young wizard had just said before finally replying. Stuttering a bit, he finally got the words to come out coherently.

"Dobby…is st-staying until yous replies is ready," he managed. A few minutes later, he brought up the more personally important subject. "Is yous meaning it, Harry Potter, sir? Can Dobby stays with you and yous family?"

Pausing with his fork half way between his mouth and the plate, Harry replayed what Dobby had just asked and realized his offer must have had greater significance than anything he had originally anticipated.

"Yes, I did mean it when I said you could stay with me, but what exactly does that mean to you? I don't want to say the wrong thing, or something."

"If Harry Potter will have him, Dobby is wanting to bond to the Potter family, to serve you as yous house elf," Dobby explained.

"I thought you liked being free…"

"Dobby is liking being free of the Bad Master and is liking working Hogwarts, but no House elf can be at their best without bonding to a Wizard. House Elf magic is strengthened by the bond, so we is better able to help our Masters."

Considering the likelihood that Hermione would kill him the instant she found out that he had bonded a house elf, then the hopeful – no, eager – look on Dobby's face, Harry realized he liked the thought of making his friend happy. After all, Dobby was as much family to him as the rest of his friends.

"I will agree to take you on as my house elf, bonded to the Potter line, so long as you agree to my conditions."

Dobby nodded quietly, his large eyes full of nervous fears.

"Whatever yous is wanting of Dobby, Harry Potter, sir."

"Alright, then. You will not call me Master unless the situation is one that requires it. You will be paid ten galleons a week, to do with as you please and you will wear whatever clothes you wish. Once I have a house, I may come up with a uniform, but I haven't thought too clearly about that." Harry grinned.

"And lastly, my giving you clothes to wear is not a sign of freedom. You and I must agree to you being freed before it can occur. Do you agree?"

"Oh, yes, Dobby is agreeing, Harry Potter, sir!" Dobby bounced around happily before settling back down near Harry. "Do yous know the bonding spell?"

"No. What do I need to do?"

A spike of magic set off detectors at the ministry of magic and in the – currently empty – office of one Albus Dumbledore. Analysis of the spike by the Office of Underage Magic concluded that it was a harmless venting of energy resulting in no noticeable effect and no further action was taken.

Dobby shivered as the young wizard's magic reached out and tied itself to him, the resulting rush of power enough to knock him to his knees. Blinking euphorically, he giggled and hugged his new Master around the waist. The bond practically pulsed between them and he was overjoyed by the happy, contented smile on Harry's face. Taking the chance to get a feel for his Master's magical signature while he was relaxed and unguarded, Dobby's eyes went even wider than normal and he stifled a gasp. He waited for the young wizard to open his eyes before speaking.

"Yous is much more powerful already than my old Master was when you freed me," he whispered. "And soon yous will start to grow up as a wizard, growing into yous full power. Dobby is making sure yous is eating enough to keep up yous strength."

"What exactly do you mean by 'growing up as a wizard'?" Harry asked, eyes still aglow with his own giddy reaction to the powerful bonding. "I don't think I've heard anything about that…unless you mean puberty…"

"Harry Potter is not knowing? This is for yous magic more than yous body. Dobby will help. Yous needs books to learn as you grow in power," the elf stated seriously.

"If I send you to Gringotts, can you get money out of my vault?"

"Do you haves yous key?"

"I think Molly Weasley has it. I can write her a note so she'll hand it over," Harry mused. "Just in case Dumbledore has it, I'll write a separate letter for Gringotts so they know to make me a new key or to retrieve the old one." He sighed. "But we can do it in the morning. It's too late to bother Molly tonight. I'll finish eating and read my letters so the replies are ready tomorrow."

Dobby nodded and smiled.

"Just make Dobby a list of books you think yous might be wanting and Dobby will gets you what else you needs too."

Harry pulled a roll of parchment over next to him along with his quill and ink, then opened up his letters and started to read. Alternately smiling, laughing and feeling outright depressed, Harry wondered when he'd ever get off this rollercoaster ride he called his emotions. Ever since Cedric's death a little over a year ago, he would wobble between enjoying life and feeling flat out ready to beg for mercy in the form of a well aimed Avada Kedavra, and losing Sirius was only making it worse.

Surprised by the letters from Luna and Neville, he settled in to answer as best he could. If there was one thing he knew his friends would not allow him to get away with, it was his usual evasive 'I'm fine', and that knowledge filled him with a deeper sense of family than he had felt for most of his life.

With his letters folded and addressed to the appropriate recipient, Harry began a list of book subjects he wanted Dobby to find for him.

Please look for books on the following subjects. Thank you.

OcclumencyLegilimencyDefence Against the Dark Arts

Wizarding Law Wandless MagicWand Making

And anything you know for certain a young wizard would have learned from his parents or tutors before going to Hogwarts.

Looking over everything one last time, he decided that he might as well go to bed. It was after midnight already and Dobby would be back in the morning to take his letters and to bring him his breakfast. Changing into his sleep pants, he crawled into bed and sighed. It had turned out to be a far better day than he could have hoped and that good feeling carried over into his hope for the coming months. Sleep dragged him under and he immediately recognized that he was in a dream.

"No, not again," Harry breathed as he once again materialized into a dream of the events that led up to and immediately followed his Godfather's death. Standing near the security desk, he was shocked when another version of himself led his five companions towards the lifts after throwing a concerned and very suspicious look at the unattended desk. Drawn to follow as if in a Pensive Memory, the young man observed as an outsider and his blood ran cold.

He watched himself trying in vain to send the youngest pair away to safety, and his attempts to protect them all…all in vain. Their loyalty and stubbornness rivalled his own, or so it would seem.

The plain black door he'd dreamed of for months appeared before them and he groaned. "No guys…"

"Let's go."

He watched Luna looking around with open mouthed awe…took in Ginny, Ron and Neville's defiant loyalty…they made their way through the round room of doors…and then…

"'This is it!" he cried.

Harry didn't think he would never be able to forget the dancing, diamond-sparkling light that filled the room behind the door that led to the prophecies.

"This way!"

Drawn along despite his lack of desire to relive these events, he followed his dream self and friends along as they made their cautious way to row ninety-seven, hearts pumping furiously in the silence. Sirius was no where to be seen…and then the Death Eaters came…

Black shapes emerged out of thin air all around them, blocking their obvious routes of escape; familiar eyes glinted at them though eye slits in white masks and a dozen wands were pointing directly at their hearts. The scene abruptly shifted to the Veil room and Harry moaned softly even as he was forced to observe the events as they played out before him in stark detail.

He watched the fighting, the way Bellatrix taunted and tortured Neville and himself, then the arrival of Sirius, Lupin, Moody, Tonks and Kingsley. They had come in time to be of some help…but in a detached sort of way, he wondered where Dumbledore was. Why wasn't he down here helping them fight, helping them protect the prophecy?

"Harry, take the prophecy, grab Neville and run!" Sirius yelled, dashing to meet Bellatrix.

"Harry, round up the others and GO!"

"Dubbledore!" said Neville, his sweaty face suddenly transformed by relief, staring over Harry's shoulder.

"What?"

"DUBBLEDORE!"

Watching himself turn to look where Neville was staring, he saw what held the other boy's rapt attention. Directly above them, framed in the doorway from the Brain Room, stood Albus Dumbledore, his wand aloft, his face white and furious. He remembered feeling a kind of electric charge surge through every particle of his body, then the jubilant thought — He came to save us!

Harry shook his head. Something wasn't right about this feeling that flared when they saw Dumbledore finally coming to the rescue…it felt too…contrived…Why did he feel an almost worshipful trust when he looked at Dumbledore at that moment? All he felt now was a deep sense of betrayal that he couldn't explain any better than the previous sense of unconditional trust.

Only one pair was still battling, apparently unaware of the new arrival. Harry saw Sirius duck Bellatrix's jet of red light: he was laughing at her.

Why were you laughing, Sirius? Why did you have to taunt her and play her game instead of finishing it and taunting the corpse…it would have been so much better for all of us if you had…Then I wouldn't have had to watch the needless death of the only father figure I've ever known…

The second jet of red light hit Sirius squarely on the chest. The laughter had not quite died from his face as his eyes widened with shock. It seemed to take Sirius an age to fall: his body curved in a graceful arc as he sank backwards through the ragged veil hanging from the arch. There was a look of mingled fear and surprise on Sirius' wasted, once-handsome face as he fell through the ancient doorway and disappeared behind the veil, which fluttered for a moment as though in a high wind, then fell back into place.

"Sirius," Harry breathed, chest aching with the pain of seeing this again and the even more painful knowledge that Sirius' arrogance had contributed somewhat to his own demise. As much as he wanted to take full responsibility for the older man's death, he realized he couldn't. There were many to blame for that fateful event, and if he were to be honest with himself, Dumbledore had kept him as strictly imprisoned at Grimmauld Place as any of the guards at Azkaban. That enforced isolation in and of itself would have contributed to Sirius' rebellion. Something else about that part of the memory bothered him, but he couldn't quite put his finger on the specific detail.

He heard a loud noise from behind the dais that signalled Bellatrix's flight from the veil room and was jerked along after his dream self until they once again stood in the atrium of the ministry of magic.

"Come out, come out, little Harry!" Bellatrix called in her mocking baby voice.

Harry growled at the scene that was playing out before him. He smirked in a self-depreciating way when he saw Bellatrix go down ever so briefly under his weak and ineffective Crucio, his first Unforgivable curse. He knew deep down that he could do much better, and would very likely do so if he ever faced her again.

"Potter, I'm going to give you one chance!" shouted Bellatrix. "Give me the prophecy — roll it out towards me now — and I may spare your life!"

"Well, you're going to have to kill me, because it's gone!" Harry roared and, as he shouted it, pain seared across his forehead; his scar was on fire again, and he felt a surge of fury that was quite unconnected with his own. "And he knows!" crowed Harry, with a laugh mad enough to match Bellatrix's own. "Your dear old mate Voldemort knows it's gone, too! He's not going to be happy with you, is he?"

Harry felt no pain from his position as an observer and wondered about it for a long moment as he focused on his arch-nemesis, who was currently looking down his wand at Dream-Harry. Then Dumbledore appeared and the hate the two wizards felt for each other was almost tangible, a living thing that hissed and screamed between the two rivals.

Watching the two veteran duellists was a thing of fierce beauty for Harry as spells of every colour were sent racing back and forth, the blazing pace such that he could barely follow what they were casting when he actually recognized the spells. He memorized every wand movement and wandless gesture, every sizzling trail of spell energy, every insult and scene of destruction. The moment Voldemort vanished, Harry's point of view shifted to what was going on inside his own head during his brief possession by Voldemort.

Looking around, he admired the dark serenity of the Chamber he found himself in. The walls were a deep Slytherin green and the accents were in silver and a complimentary shade of blue, the sparse furnishing richly made from dark woods and heavy fabrics. He focused on a mess of discoloured areas on the walls and floor, then noted some other things that disturbed him in ways he couldn't rightly explain.

"What are all of these strange patches and chains…what is this mess on the floor?" He wondered, thoughts becoming more confused and disjointed the closer he got to the worst concentrations of the out of place discolouration. It was at that moment that he heard a familiar chuckle that focused him on a young looking Tom Riddle; he froze, uncertain whether he should attack or wait.

//Tom. What's going on?// he hissed demandingly.

//Given the chance, you really are quite the observant young man, Harry. You were able to see it all through mostly unclouded eyes and I truly did not expect you to get it on the first try,// Voldemort mused and gave Harry a slight nod of respect. //These oddly discoloured places on the walls are a representation of spells that have been cast on your mind, your metaphysical home. These are spells designed to cover up things someone doesn't want you to know, like a bad paint job, I suppose. They're designed to keep you from thinking for yourself and acting on your own desires. They keep you from being who you were born to be.//

//Oh, and what would that be, hmmm, Tom? What do you think I was born to be?//

//I don't have to think, Harry. I know that you were born to be one of the most powerful wizards our world has ever known. I know it, else I would never have marked you as my equal. Dumbledore knows it, and that's why he has kept you from knowing who you are and what you can truly become. Even your little band of friends can feel it. Why else would they follow you into the unknown with such blind trust?// Voldemort shook his head and chuckled quietly. //Deep down, I think you know it, too. I doubt that your power will allow itself to remain leashed for much longer. Work hard to break free, my young Serpent. I am so looking forward to facing you when we are truly on equal footing. Until then, sleep well…//

Harry felt a jolt as if he had been falling from a great height and his feet had suddenly hit solid ground, waking him abruptly.