Chapter 1: Damn D's

Harry Potter was not okay. In fact, he was as far as humanly possible from being okay. He so un-okay that there was no word to describe it. Harry Potter's friends were worried.

"I'm okay, really Hermione. I just need some...alone time. You know, do some homework or something." he answered irritably as once again she and Ron bugged him about it. It wasn't like we didn't know, he did know. He knew it was in his appearence as well as his attitude. That's why he stopped looking at mirrors. Dark circles hung beneath his once-sparkling emerald eyes, his skin had paled to a deathly white, and he was skinnier than ever before. Even his jet-black hair was so not-fine that it had begun to behave. He knew that if he looked up from his book, which he didn't even know the title of, that Hermione would be standing there, a worried look upon her face, and Ron a little for off, a copied image of that same look on his too. he couldn't face those looks, the deep sadness and pity in those hazel and blue eyes.

"Come on Hermione, leave him alone." said Ron, grabbing her arm. She started to protest, and Ron bent down and whispered something in her ear that Harry caught. "We'll come back later." Hermione nodded solemnly and said,

"Good-bye, Harry." He raised a hand and waved it once to show that he had heard. His two best friends left him alone with only his unread book and a blazing fire for company. Thank the Gods. Harry finally looked up, made sure no one was watching him, and closed the book hurridly, sighing as he sunk even lower into the chair. The past few days at Grimmuld Place had been pure hell to him, having to deal with the fact that people just kept dying.

"It's not your fault, Harry. It was never your fault." came Lupin's voice in his head, and he shook it away, clenching his fists. It was his fault, it was. If he wasn't this 'chosen one', then Lilly and James Potter, his own parents, never would have died. If he hadn't screwed everything up by being noble in the Maze, then Cedric Diggory would still be breathing. If he hadn't stupidly gone into the Ministry of Magic in a bold attempt of rescue, then Sirius Black would never have fallen into Death's Veil. If Harry hadn't been born, then Albus Dumbledore wouldn't have felt inclined to help him and therefore, would not have died under the wand of Severus Snape. If...all these 'ifs' weren't getting him anywhere. Nothing was, now that he was stuck locked up in Grimmuld place, just like Sirius was.

A few days ago, Harry had been at Number Four, Privit Drive for one last time. He had packed everything up, politely said good-bye and thanked his Aunt and Uncle, and prepared to leave, alone, not like he promised, to begin his quest to find the Horcruxes. And then the Order had shown up, threatened to stupify him, and had taken Harry back here, without his consent. Harry was not only vastly depressed, he was pissed off. He remembered Malfoy and Dumbledore's last conversation...

"Your order lot got in the way."

"Yes, they do tend to do that." Harry smiled for a brief moment, before hot anger shot through them as Snape entered his memory. He would never forgive Snape, or Malfoy, never. Yet a small voice in the back of Harry's head remembered the afraid look in Malfoy's eyes, the shaking hand that lowered his wand, and the whispered voice that spoke. Harry sat in silence, enjoying his misery. And silence pervaded, into all thoughts. Phrases flashed in his mind, random things like 'I have to do my Herbology homework' or 'Hedwig should be home soon', 'Hermione seems really worried', 'dinner should be ready soon, I'm not hungry', 'No one would notice for a while if I slipped out', 'I wonder how- what?' Harry sat up a little straighter, his heart beginning to pound. Maybe...maybe it wasn't too late.

He glaned towards the door, stood up slowly on trembling legs, and walked to it. He looked up and down the hall and strained his ears to catch any sound. Nothing. The wizard stepped out onto the creaky boards lightly, shutting the door behind him to make it look like he was still there. He cautiously made his way towards the room he shared with Ron, ducking behind a corner when Moody walked by, clinking his wooden leg. Finally he swept into the familiar room, hefted up his already packed bag, and glanced around. Hedwig's empty cage caught his eye, along with a piece of the newspaper that lined it. The heading read 'Dumbledore Dead!?!'

Harry nodded, pulled out a slip of parchment, and scribbled a hasty note.

Don't worry about me, I'll be fine. Please take care of Hedwig for me while I'm gone. Have a good year at Hogwarts, Ron and Hermione. Don't try to follow me.

-Harry

He almost laid it on the bed, thought for a moment, and then added,

"Hope your 'furry little problem' gets better, Moony." Now no one could mistake that Harry had written this. He placed it on his bed, took one last glance around the room, and left, padding silently down the stairs and into the front hall. He passed the kitchen without looking in, heard Lupin calling his name, and started to run, bolting out the front door. He didn't even have time to close it as he jumped the front steps and sprinted into the park in front of the house. He pulled out his wand, tried without avial to remember the 'Three D's of Apparition' and just spun around, his mind not focusing on anything. The pursuers had almost caught up with him, at least four pairs of footsteps echoing off the sidewalk, and then, the world went silent. It felt as if a rubber tube was squeezing him, his brian was exploding inside his skull, his eyes popping out, and mouth opened in silent scream.

He hit the earth with a dull thud face-first, hands sprawled up. Harry laid there for a few moments, waiting for Lupin or Ron to pull him up, grab his arm, and ask him some question like 'What the hell were you thinking?'. But no one came. He looked up and glanced around, only to find himself in a meadow at the edge of a forest. No mountains ar any other landmark came into view, and for once, Harry felt so out of place in the world that he smiled. No one would be able to follow him. The smile faded as he realized that as it was good no one could follow him, he had absolutley no idea where the hell he was, and if he could apparate again. A twig cracked by the trees nearby, echoing until it seemed to be everywhere. Harry fumbled for his wand, wishing his eyes to adjust to the darkness, and fially stumbled over the thin piece of wood.

"Lumos." he whispered, forgetting that he knew nonverbal spells. His wand tip alighted, showing only a few feet ahead of him. Harry stood up and swung his wand-arm around so that he could catch all of his surroundings. There were no intruders. He shrugged, adjusted his shoulder strap, and prepared to move.

"Potter?" asked a voice. Harry whipped around to see someone leaning against a tree, his pale form glowing like moonlight in the new light. Harry almost dropped the wand in surprise, mouth open, and backpedaled. No, it couldn't be, it was impossible.

"Malfoy?" he said incredulously.