DISCLAIMER: Harry Potter, the characters associated with Harry Potter and the world in which this story is set all belong to JK Rowling and other happy entities. The plot is mine, everything else I disown. No copyright infringement is intended. No profit is being made from the publication of this text. This disclaimer applies to every chapter.


CHAPTER I
Wolves and Secrets

MINISTRY OF MAGIC IN DISARRAY AFTER DEATH OF ALBUS DUMBLEDORE

After recent events at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which include Death Eaters (followers of You-Know-Who) entering the castle, and the murder of the Headmaster by a member of staff, the Ministry of Magic needs to reorganize itself, many say.

'We've been overloaded with work in the past few weeks,' commented a Ministry employee who refused to give his name. 'It seems You-Know-Who is keen to press his advantage with Dumbledore gone. Up till now we've been able to enjoy a lot of support from Dumbledore. Now, of course, he is no more.'

In the last twenty-four hours alone, the Ministry has dealt with thirteen cases of Muggle torture, five murders, including a witch and a wizard, sixteen Dementor attacks and several Inferi sightings.

Another Ministry of Magic employee claims the problem lies solely with Rufus Scrimgeour, Minister for Magic. 'One year ago, Scrimgeour set up a whole bunch of new offices to counter You-Know-Who's doings and all the fuss around it. It is often unclear which problems fall under which departments, and most of us don't even know to whom we should report! To top everything, he's making plans to announce a Second Minister for Magic, because he can't cope with things!

'Scrimgeour's actions haven't been consistent either. Seven months ago, for example, Stan Shunpike, conductor of the Knight Bus, was convicted of being a Death Eater and sent to Azkaban. Now, however, the Minister has seen fit to secretly release Shunpike and give him an unofficial apology.'

Percy Weasley, senior undersecretary to the Minister, declares that these claims have 'no factual basis whatsoever. The Minister has acted upon the statements of both Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore, when he was still alive, of course. Both claimed Shunpike was no Death Eater, and both vouched for his release.'

continued, page 2, 3

An owl swooped through Harry Potter's window and dropped the newspaper, with its lead story exposed, next to the sleeping teenager. The bird pecked at Harry's hand.

'Ow! Don't do that!' said Harry Potter, barely awake and eyes still closed. 'Who are you?' As he woke up, he realized the tawny owl wanted payment for delivering the Morning Prophet.

'Oh,' he muttered as he slipped three bronze Knuts into the leather pouch attached to the bird's leg. She promptly flew out the open window.

It was five o' clock in the morning. Much too early, Harry thought, to do anything at all. As he made for bed again, a very silent hoot from the other end of the room told Harry he had mail. Moreover, mail he might be interested in.

The message seemed to be from his best friend, Ron Weasley, judging by the less-than-tidy handwriting.

Dear Harry,

This is an invitation to Bill and Fleur's wedding, which will take place on the seventh of August.
We (that is, me and Hermione) would like to pick you up tomorrow, your birthday, and accompany you on the Knight Bus towards the Burrow.
Ginny is really devastated. Hermione's been trying to talk some sense into her, but she still won't leave her room. What did you do to her?

Best,
Ron

P.S.: Percy's talked to mum again. He says he'd like to be at the wedding.

This wouldn't do, Harry thought. He didn't want to spend any longer than was strictly necessary with the Dursleys.

Dear Ron and Hermione, if you're there,

Why don't you come and pick me up today? I'll be able to leave the Dursleys a day sooner and have my birthday at your house. The Muggles won't be happy you're coming, though, beware of that.
Come to think of it, it's probably best if you come after midnight.

Best,
Harry

As Hedwig flew out through the window, and became smaller and smaller, until the speck vanished, Harry was relieved. He was finally, finally, going to be with people that cared about him again. He felt he could confide in Ron and Hermione anything, anything at all. He really needed to talk to someone, and they were his best friends.

For a brief period last year, talking about his feelings was the last thing Harry wanted to do. Little more than one year ago, Sirius Black, Harry's godfather, was killed in battle. Harry had fallen into a pit of despair, not talking to anyone. He had felt, and he still did, responsible for his godfather's death. Harry had been lured into the Ministry of Magic and fallen right into the trap set by the Death Eaters. In the battle to save Harry and his friends, Sirius Black died.

This summer would be different. Harry promised not to lock himself up. He would not bottle his feelings. He would tell the first person to ask exactly what was on his mind. That was the only road towards recovery, and Harry had much from which to recover.

To the Wizarding world, Dumbledore had meant a great deal. He was the only one Voldemort ever feared, and he and his Order of the Phoenix had worked tirelessly against Voldemort's reign of terror.

To Harry, Dumbledore had meant much, much more. He had not only been the Headmaster of Hogwarts, but also Harry's personal mentor. Dumbledore was always the person who had the answers, even if he didn't choose to share them.

Harry considered Dumbledore to be the fifth in line to die directly because of him. His father had died, when Harry was one year old, in order to allow Harry and his mother to escape Voldemort. His mother had died, pleading with Voldemort to kill her instead of Harry. Cedric Diggory had died simply because he was with Harry at Voldemort's rebirth. Sirius Black had died because Harry was stupid enough to fall into the rather obvious trap. Dumbledore had died because Harry wasn't able to stop the killers. Of course, he had been petrified by magic at the time.

This ill fate followed Harry because of the prophecy. It was made some seventeen years ago, and foretold the birth of the one with the power to defeat the Dark Lord. Voldemort had only heard the first part of it, and decided to hunt Harry down at all costs.

When Harry was one, Voldemort had discovered the location of the Potter residence. He had murdered James Potter, Harry's father. He had murdered Lily Potter, his mother. He had then turned his wand on baby Harry and performed the unblockable Killing Curse.

Harry survived. The curse had rebounded upon Voldemort and left him powerless. Harry was left only with a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead.

It was this scar that made Harry special, even for a wizard. It was a link between himself and Voldemort. Before Voldemort knew of it, Harry would often get visions: events seen through Voldemort's eyes. The scar would hurt when Voldemort felt particularly murderous or angry or jubilant. It also hurt whenever Voldemort was near Harry.

Voldemort did not die the night his Killing Curse rebounded upon himself. His body was destroyed, but his soul remained in the world of the living. He was powerless until he was able to regain a body, when Harry was nearly fifteen.

The evening after the Halloween night when Harry's parents were killed, Harry was dumped on the doorstep of his only living relatives, the Dursleys. Aunt Petunia was Lily's only sister.

Harry's aunt, uncle and cousin weren't talking to him, and he returned the favor. They hadn't exchanged a single word this summer. But if they had, they might have known Harry was feeling miserable. In fact, Harry thought he'd never felt so miserable in his life ever before (which, he told himself, was saying quite a lot).

It was not only because of Dumbledore's death that Harry felt this way. There was another person he had lost recently. One who meant just as much to him as Dumbledore did, if not more.

Ginny.

After the distressing events at the end of last term, Harry felt forced to break up with her. Her involvement with Harry would certainly get her killed. Harry loved her too much for that to happen. Many people who he had loved in his short life had succumbed to death, but he was determined that Ginny would not suffer the same fate. Harry would do everything in his power to keep her safe.

Despite the fact that he was still very much alive, Harry missed her as he missed Dumbledore. It was as if she was gone forever and would never come back. Not as if he was waiting to come back to her after a long journey.

He knew what he had done was right. Harry loved her. Her life was more important than a few months of happiness. Harry would just have to sacrifice that.

Aah, said a nasty little voice in Harry's head, but what if she finds another boyfriend in the mean time? You can't expect her to wait, like a faithful dog, for you to return from your mission. She's bound to find someone else.

The very thought made Harry feel, if possible, even more miserable. He had had this discussion in his head over and over since Dumbledore's death.

She would be happy then.

But you wouldn't be with her.

Sacrifice. This is all about sacrifice, Harry thought. He wanted to kill Voldemort, and to do so, he had to sacrifice certain privileges. One of them was the blissful company of Ginny Weasley.

Speaking of the company of Ginny Weasley ... Harry was going to the Burrow ... today! Ginny would be there, of course. It was, after all, her home.

Ron's message told him Ginny was just as miserable, if not more so, than he was. Surely Ginny felt a gaping, Harry-shaped hole in her heart? Did this mean she wanted him back?

No. Can't go there again. She doesn't want you back. You dumped her, Potter. DUMPED. She hates you, or she should.

Though, Ginny did seem to accept the break-up when it happened. It was as if she had been expecting it. Dreading it, but expecting it, nonetheless. It even seemed as if she was already busy brooding on something. A plan? A plan to get him crawling back to her?

If she puts her mind to it, she will succeed, thought Harry bitterly. Too cunning that girl is for her own good.

He must not let it happen. She could distract him with a smile or a lingering touch. A prod. A gift. Harry shuddered to think what Ginny was going to get him for his birthday.

If she does want me back, this is going to be easier for her than she can possibly imagine...

The one thing that made Harry feel most miserable was, perhaps, the fact that he had no one to talk to. He couldn't send his thoughts in a letter to one of his friends or even to Ginny, for that matter, because it might be intercepted. The Dursleys wouldn't have an idea what he was talking about, and Hedwig, Harry discovered to his disappointment, was unable to reply in a language that was not composed of hoots and wing-flaps. (Though she did nibble his ear in a comforting kind of way.)

Once or twice, Harry seriously considered summoning his house-elf, Kreacher, so he could tell him all that was bothering him. He decided not to, eventually, because he reminded himself that Kreacher hated his master and any of his invaluable secrets would undoubtedly end up in the hands of Lord Voldemort.

Harry sighed and looked out of the open window. He was surprised to see a very hairy man in a torn woolen sweater standing close by the lamp post near the corner of Privet Drive. He looked as if he was waiting for something that wasn't due for a long time. It made Harry feel uneasy. (It was summer, after all. Much too hot to wear sweaters. Torn sweaters, at that.)

Harry did not want to sleep again. In his sleep, he was tormented with nightmares. He was doomed to witness the death of Albus Dumbledore over and over again. And every single time he was powerless to stop it. Instead, Harry started meditating, which was something Hermione had advised him to try.

When Harry stopped meditating several hours later, he was glad to see Ron had replied. Hedwig was back on top of her cage, and the shortest letter he'd ever received from him was clutched in her beak.

OK

'Thanks, Hedwig,' said Harry, as he gave her a grateful pat.

The prospect of finally meeting Ron and Hermione later in the evening, lightened his mood a bit.

He decided to start packing his trunk. When he did so, his eyes fell on a piece of glass in the bottom of it. With a pang, he realized what it must be. It was the Two-Way Mirror Sirius had given him before he had died.

He grabbed his wand to repair it, but didn't. He was still not of age. Using magic now would be illegal. Though he was quite certain the Ministry wouldn't accost him for underage magic, he was still keen to avoid it whenever possible. The Minister might use it to force Harry to cooperate with him.

Only thirteen more hours, he thought, and my no-magic time will be over.

By ten o' clock that evening, Harry's trunk was packed, and Hedwig was locked in her cage for the journey.

He wondered whether or not to say goodbye to the Dursleys. In the end, he reckoned he should be grateful to them at least for feeding him, for keeping him alive.

She took you. She may have taken you grudgingly, furiously, unwillingly, bitterly, yet she still took you.

Yes, thought Harry, with the Dursleys' fear of anything magical, adopting a baby wizard as a son would require a great deal of sacrifice. They may have treated me like vermin, but they never let me starve to death. I should be grateful for that.

Harry walked towards the window to close it, and he saw that same hairy man standing beside the same lantern, only with three other mates. They were all looking up at the sky, grimacing. It seemed as if what they were waiting for was arriving.

Harry was shocked. He finally realized what they were looking at. It was a full moon that night.

He sprinted out of his bedroom and down the stairs and yelled. 'Aunt Petunia! Uncle Vernon! Dudley! We're being attacked!'

'Shut up, boy!' yelled Uncle Vernon back at Harry. He and his wife were watching the news.

'You don't understand. We're being attacked by werewolves! All three of you, you must ... Wh- ...Where's Dudley?'

'Out for tea. At the Fedricksons',' replied Aunt Petunia in a hiss, still trying to listen to the news.

'Right. Great. I'll have to go and get him then. You two. You lock all the doors to the house. Don't let anyone in who doesn't ring the doorbell, all right?'

'Who do you think you are, commanding us around in our own house?' Uncle Vernon shouted. 'Do you have any idea what your Aunt and I have gone through to raise you? And you decide to tell us what to do! OUTRAGEOUS!'

'Shut up,' replied Harry. 'You will either do as I say, or you will get killed or turned into a werewolf! I'm going to get Dudley,' he added.

'YOU WILL RUDDY WELL NOT GO ANYWHERE IF I TELL YOU TO STAY!' roared Uncle Vernon.

Harry lost his temper too. He drew his wand and pointed it at his Uncle, who recoiled. 'Lock the doors, or I'll hex you.'

With that he left the house. As he walked onto the street, he looked to his right. He saw four wolves running towards him at full speed, a hundred or so meters away. To his left, he saw Dudley coming back from his trip.

'DUDLEY!' Harry bellowed. 'COME HERE, QUICK!' Dudley looked nonplussed. 'COME, DAMMIT!'

Harry looked around, just in time to see a werewolf take a leap at him. He ducked and pointed his wand at the wolf, who stayed suspended in mid-air, hanging by its hind legs.

He pointed his wand at the other wolves and said 'Impedimenta!' They slowed down.

He looked back at Dudley, who hadn't moved.

Accio Dudley, Harry thought, pointing his wand at him.

Dudley lifted off the ground. Hovering inches above it, he flew towards Harry, who wasn't stunned at his perfect example of non-verbal magic.

'Get in the house!' Harry snapped.

Growling from behind him told him the Impediment Jinx had worn off. He turned around and shot stunners at them. The werewolves were blown off their course, but they weren't stupefied.

Harry saw Dudley enter the house.

'Petrificus Totalus!' Harry cried, pointing his wand at the nearest wolf. The curse bounced off his back, and within seconds, the werewolf was on top of him. He felt a stinging pain in his right arm, but he was sure it wasn't a bite.

The Dursleys' lounge, Harry thought and Apparated there.

The wolf had traveled with him, and with a surprised yelp that told Harry it wasn't used to the compressing void of Apparition, ran off into the kitchen.

Harry followed it and saw to his horror that the wolf was going for Dudley. 'NO!' shouted a voice.

The wolf, in mid-leap, was blown off course as if by a sudden storm. It hit the wall and instantly fainted.

Harry turned to his Aunt, whose face was white with horror. 'That wasn't me,' he said quietly. 'You've just performed magic.'

Someone Apparated beside Harry. He was a tall, balding man with red hair.

'Harry!' he said. 'What's wrong? They say you've been doing magic!'

'Werewolves, Mr Weasley,' Harry replied.'They attacked me.' He pointed to the werewolf lying in the kitchen.

Mr Weasley swore loudly and Disapparated without saying anything else.

Uncle Vernon came into the kitchen. 'You, boy! What's going on?'

Harry started explaining. 'There were werewolves. They attacked us. They're outside now, but I doubt they can come in. I bet the Ministry is going to come soon to sort things out.'

'Is he alright?' Uncle Vernon asked Aunt Petunia, who was examining her son.

'Yes, I think so. He's in shock, though.'

Dudley did indeed look very white. He was staring straight ahead of him, as if bored.

Harry thought he heard activity on the street, but he decided not to go and look. Instead, he answered Uncle Vernon's questions.

'What did you do to my son, boy?'

Harry sighed. 'Nothing. The werewolf tried to attack him.'

'What are werewolves doing, coming after my son? Why would they attack Dudley?'

'They tried to lure me into a trap and kill me, I suppose,' said Harry dully. He didn't want to continue a conversation with someone who was intent on blaming him.

'And you fought them off, did you?'

'Yes.'

'So how did that thing get into the house? How did you get in the house? I locked the doors.'

'I Apparated, and the wolf came with me.'

'Appa-what?'

'Apparate, materialize out of thin air.'

'So you can, err, do that, can you?'

'Yes, but I'm not allowed to. I haven't got my license yet.'

'So how did the werewolf follow you?'

'It held on to me when I Apparated.'

This seemed to make Uncle Vernon angry.

'So you brought that thing into my house and sent it after Dudley?'

'I didn't mean to. It just ... happened by accident.'

At that moment, a crack filled the kitchen, and Harry saw Mr Weasley again.'

'YOU!' breathed Uncle Vernon. 'YOU! GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!'

Uncle Vernon's reaction was perfectly understandable, thought Harry, as Mr Weasley had once ruined the Dursleys' fireplace.

'I need to speak with Harry,' he said, beckoning Harry to come into the lounge. Harry followed, dodging cutlery that was being thrown at Mr Weasley by the disgruntled Dursley family.

'So, did you catch the other werewolves?' Harry asked.

'Errm, no. They seem to have run away.' Mr Weasley replied. He looked at Harry's blood-drenched arm.

'Did it get you?'

'It's just a scratch, I think,' Harry said, revealing his arm to Mr Weasley.

'Here, let me. Tergeo.'

He tapped the wound with his wand, and the blood all around the wound vanished, revealing four long, narrow wounds.

'Yeah, looks like talon damage to me. Ferula.'

Bandages appeared out of nowhere and wrapped themselves tightly around Harry's arm.

'Thanks.'

'No problem. Listen, Harry. I've wanted a word with you ever since the summer holidays started.'

'Couldn't that wait until I arrive at the Burrow? Ron and Hermione are supposed to pick me up later this evening.'

'Oh, well, uhm, yes. I think it could wait.' Harry could tell Mr Weasley was feeling uncomfortable.

'I guess I'd better go, then. See you tomorrow!'

'Bye, Mr Weasley.'

Mr Weasley entered the kitchen again, avoiding a few forks and plates, and Disapparated together with the still unconscious werewolf.

'What was he doing here?' Uncle Vernon shot at Harry, clearly in a rage about that man's nerve to enter his house, especially after what he had done last time.

'He works at the Ministry,' Harry reminded him. 'He's sorting this situation with the werewolves out.'

Uncle Vernon still looked livid, but he had nothing more to say.

'If you're done with me, I'd like to talk to Aunt Petunia.' Harry looked at her. She looked terrified at the prospect of a conversation with her nephew.

'So, tell me,' Harry said when at last Uncle Vernon and Dudley had left him and his aunt alone. 'Did you know you were a witch?'

Slowly, reluctantly, it seemed, Aunt Petunia nodded. She covered her face with her hands as if ashamed of what she'd just answered.

'Did you, err, get a letter from Hogwarts when you were eleven?'

She nodded again.

'But you didn't go?' asked Harry, guessing the answer.

She shook her head, and said, 'I wanted to go! I thought it would be great to go! I just couldn't help thinking of my parents, and what they'd say if I told them I could do magic! And what about Lily? Suppose I'd gone to the school, and she hadn't gotten a letter when she was eleven? I couldn't do that to her!'

She was crying. Harry understood. Aunt Petunia had refused to go to Hogwarts out of respect for Harry's grandparents and his mother. They might have felt disgusted with having a witch in the family... just as disgusted as Aunt Petunia had felt having Harry in the family. And Lily might have felt left out. But when Lily had gotten the letter, she had decided to go to Hogwarts. Her parents had been pleased, contrary to Petunia's prediction. She became jealous, which explained her hatred of everything magical.

'But ... what about Dudley? He didn't get a letter, did he?'

He looked into her eyes, and she into his.

'Not your son?'

She shook her head again.

'Adopted?' She nodded.

Harry looked into her wet eyes again, and felt a terrible surge of pity towards his aunt. She knew that any child she had would inevitably be a witch or wizard. She had sacrificed having her own child so she would never be confronted with anything magical.

'And you didn't want to take me in because it would nullify the sacrifice you and Uncle Vernon made ... And Dumbledore knew this. That's why he was corresponding with you. He kept you posted of goings-on in my world because he knew that if my parents died, my best chance of survival was if you took me in.'

The door bell rang as the clock chimed twelve o' clock. Harry hastened to open the door, and his vision was instantly obscured by a lot of bushy brown hair. Hermione had flung her arms around Harry's neck and pulled him into a hug.

'How are you, mate?' a voice Harry knew well said. 'Dad said you'd been attacked by werewolves.'

'Yeah, but I'm all right,' he replied. 'Err, Hermione, would you like to let go of me?'

'Oh, of course,' she said. Her gaze fell upon the blood stained bandages on Harry's right arm. 'You didn't?'

'No, it's a claw wound, not a bite. Come in! Don't stand in the doorway in this chilly mist.' He closed the door after them.

'I should think not!' Uncle Vernon's voice echoed from the door to the lounge. 'You're not inviting more people like you into my house!'

Harry smiled. 'I'm afraid they are going to stay a little longer. I need to go upstairs to fetch my trunk and then say goodbye. After that, we'll leave. For good. Okay?'

Uncle Vernon was clearly debating the matter in his head. On the one hand, he'd like for Harry to leave as soon as possible. On the other, he didn't want any more of them in the house.

'All right,' he barked. 'But stay away from me or my family!' He returned to the lounge where Dudley was still sitting.

Harry went upstairs to fetch his trunk and Hedwig from his room. When he came back down, Ron and Hermione were looking at the cupboard under the stairs.

Harry put down the trunk and the cage at the bottom of the stairs. 'So, uh, shall we go now?' he asked.

'Harry, what's this?' Ron asked in a hoarse voice. He pointed at the open cupboard. An old mattress was lying on the floor, and there were several child's drawings on the inside of the door. Harry hoped his friend wouldn't understand what it meant.

'That's nothing,' said Harry. 'Let's go.'

'Nothing?' Hermione breathed. Her right hand was moving over the series of locks Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia had used to keep Harry locked in. 'Come on, let's go,' Harry said again. He didn't fancy discussing the cupboard with his friends just yet.

'Harry,' said Ron, 'tell me they didn't lock you up in here.'

Harry decided not to lie. 'It used to be my room, all right?'

Hermione whimpered. 'Then what are the locks for? You can't open them from the inside.'

Harry sighed. 'They didn't want me to leave my room at night,' he said.

'So they locked you up?' Ron asked. Harry nodded.

'It's not that bad,' Harry said. 'It wasn't ever for too long.'

'Too long?' Hermione whispered. 'Harry, what's the longest they ever locked you up in here?'

'About three months,' said Harry, not really wanting to answer the question. 'But I did set a Boa Constrictor loose on Dudley.'

'I never knew this,' said Hermione, tears of pity in her eyes.

'Me neither,' said Ron. 'Why did you never tell?'

'I must have forgotten it,' Harry mumbled.

'Are you leaving yet, boy?' Uncle Vernon's voice boomed.

Hermione and Ron's pity instantly changed into fury.

'You Harry's Uncle?' Ron asked.

'Not if I had a say in it,' said Uncle Vernon. 'Haven't you wreaked enough havoc in my house? Get OUT!'

Hermione's curse sent Uncle Vernon flying back into his own lounge. A flick of Harry's wand caused the door to slam shut.

'Hermione, what do you think you're doing? That's Muggle baiting. That's illegal.'

'So?' said Ron. 'They deserve it.'

'What are you defending them for?' Hermione asked. 'You hate them.'

'That doesn't mean I want you to curse them, Hermione,' said Harry. 'Now, let's go. Locomotor trunk and cage,' he muttered, as he followed Ron and Hermione out of the front door, leaving the house in which, hopefully, he would never have to set foot again.

BANG. Ron had flagged down the Knight Bus.

'Welcome to the Knight Bus, emergen ... 'Ello, 'Arry Potter! 'Ow're you doin' today?' said a positively beaming conductor.

'Shush,' said Hermione, entering.

'The Burrow, please,' said Ron, entering after Hermione.

'I'm fine, Stan,' said Harry, patting the conductor's shoulder with his left hand, as his right was holding his wand and directing the trunk and cage to follow him into the triple-decker. 'So, Stan, how's freedom?' asked Harry, smiling, and seated.

BANG.

'Freedom's great, 'Arry. Still dunno what they locked me up for. It's fanks to you, really, that they let me go.'

'Yeah, I read the Prophet.' BANG.

'I 'ave to get Madam Bog, now, 'scuse me,' Stan Shunpike said, and he left to get and old woman who needed help getting off the bus.

'So Harry,' started Hermione. 'How are you?' By her tone, Harry could tell she wasn't talking about his physical well-being. He could also tell she wished to forget the cupboard as soon as possible.

Harry sighed. 'Miserable,' he replied truthfully.

'I figured,' said Hermione quietly, with a very understanding look in her eyes. 'Do you want to talk about it?'

Harry didn't reply. He did not know whether he wanted to talk about it or not. A few hours ago, he would have given anything to talk about what was bothering him to Hermione and Ron. Now, however, he felt oddly alone. BANG.

'I guess,' he said slowly. 'I just ... don't know.'

'Don't know what?' said Ron, rather unexpectedly, as he had turned a shade of purple. Ron didn't like traveling on the Knight Bus.

Harry did not know where to begin. 'Whether I'm the right person to do all this. You know, finding the Ho-- the thingies - and destroying ... him. Dumbledore is dead, and I'm not sure he's told me enough to carry on without him.

'When he was alive, it was like ... there was a big distance between me and Voldemort. I knew I had to face him in the end, but, as long as Dumbledore was there, I felt I could do it. With Dumbledore around, I felt I could face anything. Now I seem so ... alone.' BANG.

'You're not alone, Harry,' said Ron, now a shade of green. 'We're with you. We'll always be there.'

'I know, but ... It's just ... first Sirius, now Dumbledore ... I'm not sure what's coming next. I'm not sure if I want what's coming next.'

'Do you miss Dumbledore?' Hermione asked, trying not to make it sound like a stupid question.

'Yeah. He was ... ' It was painful to talk about him. 'He was not just my headmaster ... he was also ... like ... my grandfather. I know it sounds stupid, but I think he might have felt the same way about me. It's just ... like I said ... as long as he was around something told me I could face anything. I have to find and destroy the thingies and kill him and I know it's going to be really tough and all, and I have to do it without him.'

Stan Shunpike had joined them. ''Arry, and friends, we've arrived at your Bureau.'

'Burrow,' muttured Ron.

'Oh, great,' said Harry, charming his trunk and cage again. 'How much do I owe you?'

'It's on the 'ouse, 'Arry, seein' as it's your birthday an' everyfing,' replied Stan Shunpike with a smile.

'All right, see you.' said Harry, as he followed Ron out.

BANG.'I hate that bus!' said Ron, after vomiting spectacularly on the ground.

Harry looked up at the house that was called the Burrow. He had not mentioned the biggest thing that was bothering him to Hermione and Ron. He didn't know what they would say or whether talking about it would make him happier or not.

He just didn't want to be reminded of her. Something, unfortunately, that would prove very difficult in the house he was about to enter.

'Harry! Thank goodness, you're here!' Before he knew it, he was pulled into a tight hug by Mrs Weasley.

'My god, you're thin! Haven't your aunt and uncle fed you? You look starved! What would you like to eat? Soup? Scrambled eggs?'

'Nothing, I think I'll just go to bed, thanks. I'm feeling rather sleepy.'

'Not before I have a look at your arm,' she said, pulling it towards her as if it didn't belong to anyone.

She magicked away the bandages, and Harry saw a fresh wound, as if it had just been inflicted.

'Hmm, I'll have to ask Remus before I try anything else,' she said, after a healing spell didn't work. 'Ferula.'The bandages wrapped themselves around Harry's arm tightly again. 'Perhaps it will have healed naturally in the morning.'

'Hopefully,' said Harry.

'Now, off to bed.' She waved her wand at the trunk and cage and they followed Harry to Ron's bedroom.


Author's Notes: Well, there it is. The first chapter of my first fic. I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing. I hope I made the werewolf attack credible, as well as the conversation with Petunia. I know Jo said she wasn't the one who was going to do unexpected magic, but you can't deny this situation is indeed a tremendous insight in the psychology of the Dursley family.