A/N: This is an alternate sixth year fic which contains some aspects of HBP canon, such as the Half-Blood Prince and Slughorn, but there are some key differences. The main differences are Harry's different attitude, the lack of Horcruxes (although I have something equally horrifying planned), and no Hallows. The story is an R rated story although the first few chapters are around the PG/PG-13 range. Obviously a H/G tale, but with the focus on Harry dealing with the hardships of war and trying to create the future that he wants.

I plan to write two fics, the first being Savior in the Shadows, which is planned to be 250,000 words

Chapter One: The Will to Flee

Harry lay sprawled on his hard mattress, ignoring his uncle shouting at him. Harry knew he should go down before Vernon stopped yelling about the fact that breakfast wasn't made and started his rant about Harry being a lazy freeloader who deserved to be in an orphanage, but Harry couldn't find it in him to get out of bed. He hadn't gotten a full night's sleep since Sirius's death, and last night's dreams were especially bad. It wasn't always Sirius that Harry dreamed about; sometimes it was everyone who Harry knew would die because he was too weak to do his job and kill Voldemort. He was supposed to save people, but so far all he had done was get people killed. He would never have the ability to defeat Voldemort's Death Eaters, let alone the monster himself. Harry heard his uncle's heavy feet pounding up the stairs, but still didn't react. I deserve whatever punishment he deals out… my Godfather is dead because I'm a freak… Harry told himself. There's nothing that oaf can do to make it worse…

However, it would seem that Harry's uncle wouldn't be harming his nephew. As Harry's door burst inwards, there was a soft pop in the room, and Harry saw a familiar house-elf.

"Dobby?" Harry asked, wondering why on earth this house-elf was in his house. Was Dumbledore using Dobby to keep track of him…?

"WHAT THE RUDDY HELL IS THAT … thing?" Vernon yelled in his roaring voice that was used mostly to intimidate pesky salesmen who knocked on the door or to try to intimidate one of Harry's type. He was already red in the face from yelling at Harry and climbing the stairs, and was now turning purple.

"He's a house-elf. A rather powerful magical creature, I might add. It would be best if you left the room now, he's quite loyal to me," Harry said with a straight face, enjoying the effect that had on Vernon's face.

"I WILL NOT TOLER-"

Harry chuckled as he saw the fear and desperation intersperse with Vernon's fury towards his nephew's freakish ways. "You have no choice unless you wish for Dobby to get my headmaster involved," Harry said, concluding the conversation and causing Vernon to slam his door shut behind himself, furiously grumbling about what he ought to do to teach freaks a lesson.

"Harry, yous is truly a greatest wizard, complimenting a lowly house elf such as myself. I is here bringing you a message from Griphook, and Gringotts, sir. They wish for you to meet them tomorrow at twelve."

"Err… thanks, Dobby. Do you know why Griphook needs to see me?"

"No sir, they is only telling me to deliver that message. They would contact you by Floo, but they cannot enter Harry Potter's house. Dobby was watching your house and I saw the failed attempt to enter, so I followed the goblins and spoke with them."

Harry nodded, annoyed that Dobby was indeed minding him, but impressed nonetheless by the house-elf's ability to find the goblins and deliver their message. "Ok, erm, Dobby? Does Dumbledore know of this?"

"He knows I was to pass a message to you, but he does not know what the massage was. Should Dobby tell Dumble-"

"No Dobby, that's alright. Can you Apparate me there when its time?" Harry said, glad that Dumbledore was not going to be there.

"Yes, Sir, I is returning tomorrow." Dobby proceeded to vanish.

As Harry sat back on his bed, he began to think once again about Dumbledore. While he was no longer angry enough to destroy the other half of his headmaster's office, Harry still didn't trust Dumbledore. Dumbledore ignoring Harry his fifth year was almost as annoying as the Ministry convincing the public he was a deranged, attention-seeking lunatic. Worst of all was the fact that Dumbledore hadn't told him the prophecy until Harry learned of its existence via Lucius Malfoy. If Harry had not found out about the prophecy then, it was possible he would still not know of its contents. Harry's mind raged on and on at Dumbledore's unfair treatment towards him. Surely if Harry was the one who could kill Voldemort, Dumbledore should have been teaching and training him for the confrontation ever since Harry came to Hogwarts and was nearly killed by Voldemort's spirit… Harry didn't want special treatment, he just thought that the least someone could do was tell him that his life was entwined with Voldemort's and not make him go through some of the most ridiculous trials and confrontations wondering why the whole time. He wasn't blaming Dumbledore for being bitten by a poisonous snake in his second year, being nearly killed by dementors multiple times during his third, or being tortured and nearly killed his fourth year, he was just furious that he was forced to go through all of those ordeals with no knowledge of the reasons why things were the way they were. He was willing to go have himself torn up and nearly killed as long as he knew why it was happening. He was sick and tired of hearing 'when you're older, you can know'. Voldemort killed children and wasn't going wait until he reached a certain age. He was going to fight, he choose to fight, but he wasn't going to fight for anyone else unless they were willing to work together as equals. He wasn't interested in being flossed around from the Dursleys to Hogwarts and back to the Dursleys until Dumbledore saw fit to throw him into the arena and tell him to hold his head high.

It all comes down to the fact that he thinks I'm a bloody child and that he's some sort of ultimate guardian! I may not have been old enough to make my own decisions, but he never should have made them, Harry thought furiously. This train of thought kept Harry busy until the next day when Dobby popped into his room.

Harry was Apparated directly into the room of Griphook. Wish I could do that house-elf trick Harry mused.

"Good day, Mr. Potter," Griphook said formally.

Harry wished he had paid more attention in History of Magic so he knew the proper greetings to say to a goblin. He had to make do with an "Err…Hello Mr. Griphook."

"I have called you here to discuss the will of Sirius Black. In his will, he gave all of his money, except for a sum of 5000 galleons to Remus Lupin, to you, as well as Number 12, Grimmauld Place."

Griphook handed a letter to Harry. "This is from him, for you."

Harry nervously opened the letter:

Dear Harry,

If you are reading this, I probably have made an early departure from this world. I knew that one day I would go and get myself into a mess that I couldn't dig myself out of… I first want to tell you not to waste your time grieving for me, as I am probably with Prongs now, watching over you. I ask that you remember and honor me by enjoying life as only a true marauder could. I cannot tell you how proud I am of you, even though our time together was limited. I will be prouder still if you find it in yourself to continue to live as the son of a one marauder, and the godson of another. You're an intelligent boy with a moral strength that truly shines, and you're soon to become a man. Becoming a man, Harry, isn't something that is determined by age or is given to you when others think you are ready, it is something you must seize when you know inside of you that the time is right for you to rise up and grow to be the best that you can be. Soon it will be time for you become your own man and that means making your own decisions with your mind and heart. I've watched you and I have one piece of advice for you that I hope you will understand.

Harry, when you rely on the plans of others and fully trust in the goodwill of anyone, you trap yourself. I trusted Dumbledore and allowed him to slowly gain more and more control over my life until I was no longer making my own decisions about where I went and what happened in my own house. I trusted fully in his ability to ensure that the bell of justice always rang and I was wrong to put my life, or even a fraction of my life, in his hands. I'm sorry to tell you this, Harry, but trust me on this, I know. If there is one thing I know, it is that if you are not in complete control of your own life, the Wizarding World will consume you. This goes beyond accepting the fact that you are too young to be told information… You are a part of the war, loathe as I am to admit it, and I want you to give me one last promise. I want you to promise that you'll be no one's servant who does his bidding and learns not to ask questions. You must be the one making choices or you will end up like me, trapped under the will of others. We live in an imperfect world where the strong and cunning survive, and I want you to survive above all. It's a grim picture, I know, but it is true. Trust me on this, if there is one thing that I know, it is that the world is full of predators with sharp smiles.

I know what you have to do, Harry, and I know that you alone can make it happen. You must guide yourself to the goal because this is your job and your war, despite the fact that you are young and despite the fact that others may wish to orchestrate events and keep you moving to their tune. Don't be anyone's prisoner by doing what they think is right instead of what you know to be right. The minute you submit and go against your heart because someone else is forcing you to do so, you lose something very important. If you fully trust in Dumbledore's plan for victory, if your mind and heart agree with it, then go along with it. But if you don't agree or believe that he is making the right decisions for you, then you must make your own decisions. Life is about being the best person you can be and only you know how to do that.

I never wanted to give you this last gift, I wanted to be your guardian forever and help you as you fight against seemingly overwhelming odds, but it is too late for me to have what I want. I have liberated you and signed papers stating that you do not need a guardian. You have all that you need to seize freedom and grow unrestrained. James, Lily, Remus, and I have always been so proud of the boy that you were and we know that we will be proud of the man that you become.

Love,

Sirius Black

As Harry read the letter, tears caressed his face as the hole in his heart left by Sirius's death was reopened. He was overwhelmed by everything that Sirius was saying to him and could barely stand as his mind tried to deal with Sirius's words, which were echoing around his brain, mixing with the facial expressions and old memories of Sirius that were popping up uncontrollably in his head.

"Th-Thanks Griphook" Harry stammered, trying futilely not to break down. He could think about it later because right now he was in Gringotts and had other business that needed his focus.

"If you would follow me, please. Sirius left instructions for his money to be transferred to the Potter Family Vault."

Harry wiped furiously at his eyes, confused and intrigued by this new piece of information. "What?" said a shocked Harry, "You mean we… I… have another vault?"

"Yes, of course…" said Griphook. "You did not know? Surely Dumbledore told you that your parents were very wealthy…"

"No … there were many things he saw fit not to tell me." Harry muttered darkly. "I thought that the total of their savings was in the fund they set up for me to buy school supplies."

"That is utterly ridiculous! Well, I suppose you should come see it then."

"Yeah… I would like that." Harry was not excited about the extra money, but was quite eager to see if he could find out more about his heritage. He had always wished he could simply have more memories and possessions of his parents.

After a sharp descent, they arrived first at the Black Family Vault. Harry saw piles and piles of gold, as well as many ornaments made out of silver. It reminded Harry of Grimmauld Place… the place where Sirius grew up in surrounded by the dark wizards… the place where Dumbledore shut him up in… The dark affluence and moral bankruptcy of the Blacks had been Sirius's first jail. One day Harry would find a way to use the Black's money for something that would make all of them, with the exception of Sirius, turn in their graves.

Harry was eager to leave the gloomy Black Family Vault, but Griphook insisted that they must go into the very center of the vault. In the center there was an ornate key on a chain. The key was made of the finest silver, and there was writing etched in saying: Master of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black.

Griphook told Harry to take the key. "It is now yours. This is the Black Family Key, and the wearer will be able to Apparate into the House of Black. This will also allow you to control the wards and Floo of the property, as well as command any house elves belonging to the house."

Harry took the key only because he wanted to expedite the process of leaving the Black Family Vault. A sick feeling formed in Harry's stomach thinking about Sirius, but Harry forced himself to temporarily forget about Grimmauld Place. He would keep the key on him and use it if need be, but otherwise he would steer clear of Grimmauld Place. It was never "home" to Sirius, and it would never be home to Harry, key or no key.

Harry found the Potter Family Vault to be very different from the Black Family Vault. It contained roughly the same amount of gold, but was also filled with suits of armor, gem encrusted swords, and various other gold treasures. Harry had never seen such wealth before, and still couldn't wrap his mind around the fact that he was now probably the richest man in England. It didn't change anything, really. He didn't really care about luxury or the fake popularity that wealth could buy, so he figured that the majority of his wealth would just remain in the vault. He didn't even plan to tell anyone of his newfound gold.

Harry ran to the center of the vault and sure enough he saw a beautiful key. It was made from shining gold, and the head was shaped as a lion, with glimmering rubies as eyes. Carved into the key was what Harry assumed was the Potter Family Motto: Fortune follows the bold.

Harry never knew that his family had a motto and he decided then and there to follow it as best he could. Harry didn't see himself as bold, letting Dumbledore control his life and make his decisions. Perhaps Harry had little fortune over the last year because he wasn't bold enough? What could he do now to ensure that this year went differently?

Then the thought hit him that if the Potters had a family key, they must have a house or, judging by the size of their vault, a manor.

"Griphook, I need to get to my father's house, how do I do that?"

"Ahh yes, Potter Manor. I do not know of its location, as most manors of that size are hidden by a number of charms. However, if you are truly the Potter heir, then hold the key and will yourself home. It will be a experience similar to Apparition."

"Griphook?"

"Yes?"

"Thank you."

Harry held his breath as he held the key to his chest and willed himself to go to the home of his father. He felt a slight twinge as the scenery of the vault faded and was replaced by what looked like a massive living room. He slowly looked around, taking in the richly adorned furniture and walls, decorated in Gryffindor colors. The house was very neat, which puzzled Harry, because he thought that no one had been living in this house for over fifteen years. Harry found his answer when a female house elf, who looked a little older than Dobby, but still much younger than Kreacher, appeared in front of him.

"Master James! Is it you? But… but yous can't be James … look just like him…" The house elf stammered, a mix of elation and confusion on her face.

"I'm Harry. Harry Potter. I'm James and Lily's son." Harry said, a bit shocked over having a house elf, but also remembering how useful house elves were.

"OH! You have her eyes…Madee is so honored to serve the next Potter." Madee proceeded to bow to Harry's feet.

"Madee, did my parents treat you like a servant or a friend?" Harry was a bit uncomfortable with having someone bow to him. He truly hoped his parents had similar feelings towards house elves.

"They… they was always treating me like family… they wouldn't let me call them master… they was much too good to a elf-"

"Good. You can call me Harry. I will not order you like a master, but if you wish to… help me, that would be great. Thank you very much for keeping the house so clean."

"Master Harry you is as great as your parents … you have no idea how happy we are to serve a Potter again." Madee's happy face turned to fear as she realized her slip.

"We?"

"Bad Madee … being untruthful to master … bad-"

"Madee!" Harry yelled, hoping that Madee wouldn't see fit to bang her head on any furniture. "I have two new rules. No punishing yourself and no calling me Master." After Madee calmed down Harry gently asked, "Now can you explain what you were talking about?"

Another house elf, a male who looked about the same age as Madee appeared in the room.

"I am Jonny, sir."

"We … we is married," said Madee, looking afraid.

"That's great," said Harry, not able to see what the problem was. "Err… is there a problem?"

"No, it is just that hardly any wizards is letting house elves marry… We was thinking you may make us -"

"Nonsense! If you love each other, I think its brilliant that you married," Harry said enthusiastically. Hermione would loved to see this… Harry thought. Although she would probably want to hex me for owning two house elves…

"Yes, Lily found out that we loved each other, and she married us right away! We tried to stop her, as it is not the job of an elf to marry, but she wouldn't listen to us," Jonny said happily.

"If my mum wished for you to be married, then that's the way it will be," Harry said with a tone of finality.

"If you wish, we could show you around the house," Jonny said.

"I will be preparing lunch, what would you like?" Madee asked, excited to finally be able to cook for her master.

"Err… anything is fine, I'm not really sure…" He was still struggling to wrap his mind around all of the changes that had occurred this day.

"Shall I make you James's favorite?"

Harry nodded excitedly as he came to the realization that these elves probably knew a lot about his parents. Harry decided one day he would hear everything.

Harry followed Jonny all over the first floor. There was a magnificent dining hall, a comfortable sitting room, and a massive library. Harry guessed that this library perhaps rivaled Hogwarts. Hermione will be so jealous…Harry mused to himself.

On the next floor there were many bedrooms, and a master bedroom that Harry decided would be his. The realization finally hit Harry that he now had a true, wonderful home. Harry only wished he had known about it earlier. Yet another thing Dumbledore kept from him…

Harry got a massive surprise when he went to the third floor. He entered a huge hall and noticed that it was filled with moving portraits. Harry froze … "Does this mean I can talk to my parents?" he asked Jonny anxiously.

"Yes, and I believe they will be happy to see you." Jonny said with a smile forming on his face.

Harry ignored the other portraits greeting and talking to him. He raced to the end of the room where his parents were.

"Harry!" James and Lily's portraits both yelled. James looked proud and Lily had a tear streaking down her face. "My baby…"

"Mum…Dad…" At this moment Harry wished more than anything he could melt into their embrace. He wanted his parents to jump out of their portraits and hug him close and ruffle his hair.

After they greeted each other, the portraits asked Harry to tell them his story. Harry began by explaining how Peter Pettigrew betrayed them.

"THAT BASTARD … WHEN HE GETS OVER TO THIS SIDE I'LL BLOODY TEAR HIS HEAD-"

"James! Language. What's done is done… let Harry continue." Lily told him

"Lils … he was my friend… how could he! And it wasn't enough to betray me and you, he went and got Sirius put in Azkaban too!"

"I know dear, one day he will get what he deserves."

However James's anger was nothing compared to Lily's rage at her sisters treatment of her son. Finally Harry distracted his mother by launching into the tales of his years of Hogwarts. Harry finished with the death of Sirius, which brought a tear to both Harry and his father's eyes.

"We're so proud of you Harry. You've done so many great things… I know every portrait in this room is honored to have you as the Potter heir."

Harry nodded at his parents. It felt so good to be able to talk to them, to be able to share his burdens and grief with them. All his life his deepest desire had been to have a family. He knew that the portraits were not "real", and it "Would not do to dwell on dreams", but he allowed to portraits to enter his heart, and he allowed himself to think that, in a way, he still had some family left. One of his deepest desires, ever since he was locked up in a cupboard, was to find out more about his parents. He only wished he could have talked to them earlier in his life.

Why couldn't he have "met his parents" before now? Why couldn't he have grown up here? The property was obviously as well protected as Grimmauld Place, if not more protected. With the Fidelius Charm, surely Potter Manor would have been safer than Privet Drive… Why didn't Dumbledore even tell him about Potter Manor, let alone take him there? Why Privet Drive, of all places? Blood wards… that was a weak excuse in Harry's opinion because a Fidelius could have kept him safe. With Voldemort gone, Dumbledore could have simply warded any home that Harry stayed at and he would have been safe because Voldemort was an expert at destroying wards, but his Death Eaters, as far as Harry knew, were not. There was a slew of Wizarding families that wanted to adopt him… surely they weren't all self-serving, Malfoy-esque, families who would spoil him or use him for their own means? There must have been a real reason that Dumbledore put him in Privet Drive; a real ugly reason that Dumbledore forced him to go back there every summer. Harry meant to find out why, although he had a very nasty feeling that he knew the reason. There was something about Privet Drive that kept him morale low and kept his spirit crying for the day that he would be saved by Hogwarts. Dumbledore did everything for a reason and he must have had Harry yelled at, demeaned, and occasionally beaten for a reason.

This was the last straw in Harry's mind, the fact that Dumbledore never gave him the option of returning to his ancestral home. Instead, the over-controlling fool saw fit to place Harry in a home where he would be abused, underfed, and perhaps most importantly, not learn anything about magic. If he was to defeat Voldemort, surely the "Greatest Wizard in the World, Albus Dumbledore" should have been teaching and training him in magic. Surely when Voldemort regained a body it would have been prudent to train the only one who could destroy the snake… Any thought of mending bridges with the headmaster flew out of his mind. Harry made a promise to himself not to let the old man control his life by any means. He was going to break away from his old life, where he had no choice over his living arrangements and his role in the war. No longer would Harry James Potter hide under Dumbledore until Dumbledore saw fit to use him as a tool to destroy Voldemort. If Dumbledore wouldn't train him, Harry would learn it some other way and if Dumbledore wished to keep him in the dark, Harry would manage to find it out from another source. He was sick and tired of being submissive and obeying his orders. It was time to be bold.

That's what Sirius meant, Harry realized. He couldn't trust things to work out for the best anymore and he couldn't trust that anyone truly wanted the best for him until they proved it. There was too much cunning in the world, too many people who would do anything to achieve their own means, too many people who lost no sleep over the suffering of others. Harry Potter was a prisoner who had one chance for freedom. He could settle for the pitiful existence that Dumbledore, the Ministry, and Voldemort created for him, where he spent his year in jail with the Dursleys and during the school year followed Dumbledore's orders without knowing why or how he was supposed to fight a murdering tyrant, or he could try to get more. He may fail, but at least he could fail knowing that he tried to be his own man that Sirius could be proud of. He needed to try to take his life into his own hands and be the hand that played his own cards. Dumbledore thought that he needed to be a certain way to defeat Voldemort but Harry didn't agree; his heart and mind told him that to defeat Voldemort he would have to be stronger, more powerful, and smarter. Harry's idea of what 'walking into the arena with your head held high' differed from Dumbledore's and it was high time for him to become the man that he believed could kill Voldemort, not the boy that Dumbledore wanted him to be.

Harry began to form a plan in his mind. First of all, he would need to get his belongings from Privet Drive, and find a way to put the Manor under the Fidelius. Dumbledore was too smart for his own good and would probably figure out where Harry was and try to take him back to Privet Drive. The old man was so obsessed with "the greater good" that Harry wouldn't put it past him to perform a memory charm on Harry and leave him in Privet Drive. With the Potter key, Harry was able to make sure Dumbledore couldn't enter through Floo or Apparition, but he still didn't want his door to be broken down. Privet Drive was poisonous in an inexplicable way, Harry decided. Existing there took a toll on him and sapped his strength and will.

Second, Harry needed to start training, Harry decided the three most important areas to start on would be dueling, Occlumency, and physical fitness. Harry was driven to improve in these areas because he believed if he had been better in these three areas, the battle at the ministry might have turned out differently. He messed up royally so many times last year. If only he had locked Voldemort out of his mind or fought better in the Department of Mysteries… He should have been able to help the Order take out the Death Eaters quickly, not distract them and hinder them. He should have made sure that none of his friends got hit by curses… if he had been a better, stronger, and smarter person what was a disaster might have been a clean victory. Harry decided to research the first two topics, dueling and Occlumency in the library, and to start getting himself in shape by running around the Quidditch pitch next to the Manor. Harry decided that he would also buy some exercise machines and weights the next time he went shopping in Diagon Alley.

That led to the third step of Harry's plan. He needed a good disguise that would allow him to see to go out in public without being accosted by the Ministry and more importantly well-meaning old men determined to shut him up with Muggles. Harry was able to change his hairstyle and resolved to research glamour charms in the library.

The fourth item on Harry's agenda was what to tell his friends. Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Neville, and Luna deserved better than to be kept in the dark about Harry's whereabouts. Harry believed he could trust them to keep his secrets, but after all Hermione had too much faith in professors and Ron had a tendency to let things slip when he got emotional. He didn't know any of them well enough to share this with them… he had once chance to do everything right and fix his life and he wasn't going to risk it. What he needed was someone absolutely trustworthy who would listen to him without pestering him for details, someone who would agree with him that he shouldn't be treated as a child. Harry decided to figure that aspect out later, and kept himself busy by exploring his new mansion.

Harry enjoyed a breakfast that would rival Mrs. Weasley's after he came inside from his morning run. Madee said she could transport him to Privet Drive, and was true to her word. Harry appeared right in his room, and thankfully was spared from interacting with the Dursleys. Harry quickly packed up and grabbed Hedwig's cage and with a pop he left his uncle's house with no intention of ever coming back. Harry smirked; thinking about how whoever was on guard duty would have no idea how he escaped.

Harry thought about saying something to his relatives, but what was there to say? "Thank you for making my life miserable. Goodbye" Harry had nothing to say to them. They never wanted Harry, and Harry always dreamt of leaving them. He wished there could have been some poetic goodbye where they revealed that they did have a bit of love for him, but he wasn't about to delude himself; if the Dursleys cared for him they would have shown it by now. They were scum, Harry decided. He didn't want to see them again because he would have been sorely tempted to hex them. What do you say to someone you hate?

Oh, come now, Harry, you don't hate anyone. You are too good, too pure for that, a voice in Harry's head said to him. "No, I hate them," Harry replied loudly. He wasn't too pure for hatred… no one was. Life was full of people, some of whom one loved and some of whom one hated. He hated Voldemort and he hated Umbridge… and he wouldn't let anyone judge him for having that feeling inside of him, including himself. He did hate and he did love… that's just the way he was.

Harry sat in his bedroom in Potter Manor and began to read the letters his friends had sent him. The one on top of the stack had Hermione's tidy signature on it, and Harry decided he might as well open it first. Hermione, sure enough, assumed he was sitting around brooding in a depressed state, and urged him to talk about his grief to her. Harry sighed; Hermione did mean well, but once she had her mind fixed on something, it was nearly impossible to shake her from that train of thought. And now she was fixed on the belief that Harry was moody and depressed. Of course she would never believe Harry if he said he was "fine", so Harry decided to completely avoid the topic of his emotions. He didn't want to describe what was going on in his mind and in his heart, especially when Hermione said he 'needed to'. He didn't need to give what was asked of him and follow her iron suggestions, even if it was for his own good to talk about his emotions and problems. Actually, Hermione did have the right idea. She was right in that it might be good for him to share his feelings with someone who knew him and understood him, but Hermione wasn't that person, despite the fact that she assumed herself to be the epitome of a friend. He could feel it in her letter. She didn't need to put it in words, he could just see her saying, "Harry, look, I was right about the Department of Mysteries and I am right about this. I have been your friend for so many years and you owe it to me to respond and tell me everything. If you do that, I can figure out how to help you using my knowledge of emotions and psychology." He didn't owe her any explanations and he certainly knew how to solve his own problems better than she did.

But as annoying as she could be in her belief that she, being the cleverest of the bunch, had a responsibility to try to analyze and correct other people's lives, Harry liked her as a friend. He really did value her friendship and wanted to repair it. Not by capitulating and pouring his heart out to her in a letter so that she could dissect it and come to her own conclusions about what he needed to do with his life, but by feeding her a tidbit of information to placate her and spark the Hermione inside of her who was understanding and could see beyond books and brains.

Harry picked up a quill and paper and began to write:

Dear Hermione,

First of all, let me thank you for being at my side during the battle. I'm terribly sorry for dragging you five along with me. You will probably have heard by now that I have disappeared and the wards around Privet Drive have collapsed. Please do not worry about me, I am very safe. I will be able to tell you more later.

The reason I have left is because I can no longer trust Dumbledore to make the right decisions for me. Nearly all of his decisions have either needlessly subjected me to hardships, or isolated me. I know this is hard for you to understand, given your faith in Dumbledore and the other professors, but you must understand that the time has come for me to make my own fate, not have it decided for me by adults. The time may come when you will have to choose whether to trust me or trust Dumbledore. I hope to avoid that situation, but if he continues to try to be the one in control of my life, there may be no choice but to part ways. I don't know if you will understand this, but I hope you understand that everyone has to do what he or she think is best and right now that is what I'm doing.

And Hermione, please, I'm fine. I really am. I do need your help, but is trying to extract information from me and lecture me really help? I think not. Does trying to convince me that I don't know what's best for myself help anything?

I will be able to explain more thoroughly when we go to Hogwarts. In the mean time, I ask that you do your best to keep Ron from doing anything rash. I have, for the most part, always confided in you two, but I can't do that this time, and I don't want Ron to take it the wrong way. Snape and Dumbledore both use Legilimency and, I suspect many people will try to read mail delivered by Hedwig. When we get to Hogwarts, I plan to teach you Occlumency first thing, and I promise, no more secrets. If you want, I have left a book on Occlumency in my old room in number 12 that you can use if you wish to get a head start. I am also learning it at the moment. It turns out that Snape wasn't teaching me any of the things the book outlines. If you do decide to practice it, I would appreciate it if you could include Ron and Ginny as well.

Your Friend,

Harry

PS: Hedwig will stop by number 12 a few times a week. If you want your mail to reach me give it to her.

Harry hoped the thrill of learning something new would distract Hermione from pestering Harry to "open up".

Harry got out his next letter from Ron. Ron's letter wasn't too different than the usual. He talked about Quidditch, summer, and any other topics that avoided around the topic of Sirius. While Harry was glad Ron wasn't trying to force Harry to talk about his grief, Harry was a bit annoyed Ron was treating Harry like an emotional child prone to explode at any provocation. Harry quickly calmed himself and reminded himself that he had spent the last year bursting with anger. Ron was not at fault here; he was for having no control of his temper during the past year.

Dear Ron,

I'm glad your enjoying your summer. I haven't been paying much attention to quidditch lately, as you can probably guess. I want to thank you for standing at my side during the battle; I hope you don't have any scars. I'm doing great this summer and I hope you are too. Let's just try to enjoy this summer and not spoil it by dwelling on the painful past.

By the time you receive this letter, you will most likely have heard that I have disappeared from Privet Drive. Do not worry; I am in a safe place. I cannot give you any details yet, as both Snape and Dumbledore can read your mind. I will say that the reason I left was because I got sick of Dumbledore running my life and treating me like a child. I do not trust that he has my best interests at heart. I will explain everything when we get back to Hogwarts.

Have a great summer,

Harry

PS: Hedwig will stop by number 12 a few times a week. If you want your mail to reach me give it to her.

Harry hoped Ron would understand that Harry could no longer tell him everything. Harry sighed; as much as he wanted to tell his friends about his new house and have them over, he couldn't. It was time for Harry to grow up, and once he saw signs that his friends had also grown up he would tell them everything. It would have felt nice to confide in his friends, like it was some sort of adventure, but the sad fact was that if he lost he would most likely be forced into Privet Drive and if he truly lost in the grand scheme of things, Voldemort would step over his corpse as he stepped on the Wizarding World.

Harry opened Ginny's letter next, not really knowing what to expect. He had become friends with her over the past year, but why was her letter nearly twice as thick as Hermione's?

Dear Harry,

I hope you having been having a good summer, well, I know your probably not, but I hope something happens to make it a good summer. Summer at Number Twelve hasn't been too great either. Mum's been after Dumbledore to allow us to bring you here, but Dumbledore is being so stubborn. I wouldn't be surprised if he receives a few Weasley howlers… Ron seems to have picked up two new hobbies… writing to Hermione and ranting on about Dean Thomas being a git. I haven't told him that I never was dating Dean, but I will soon.

Things here are okay. Percy's still being the world's biggest git, but I don't even care anymore. I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. If he comes back, fine, but if he continues to become the perfect Ministry man than I have nothing but pity and disdain for him. Mum's still really sad about it and Dad, though he keeps a stoic face, is torn inside. He thinks that he did something wrong as a parent in regards to raising Percy.

I'm a bit bored here. Mum's strict as ever about letting us hear what's going on in Order meetings and I don't have anyone really to talk to, especially since Hermione's a bit mad at me.

Hermione seems to be quite worried about you, and she has been pestering me to copy down her speech as if it was coming from me… Don't worry I wouldn't do that; I know you will talk when you are ready and not a moment before. Nothing good will come from forcing the topic of Sirius in your face. We all want to know that you're okay, but hey, you're tough, and I have faith in your ability to be 'fine'.

You haven't been sending us any mail since the end of school, and Hermione seems to have jumped to the conclusion that you are blaming yourself for Sirius's death, starving yourself, and sinking into a state of depression. I don't believe that's true, but maybe you could send us a few letters just to reassure us? Letters really are important… I know you may not appreciate what someone may say to you, but it does hurt when someone thinks that you don't care enough to spend a few minutes of your time to drop them a word or two. Just think about writing them a short letter, okay?

As I wrote earlier, Ron has been writing to Hermione regularly. The twins have been sneaking a peek at his mail, in the hopes of finding a mushy love letter to blackmail him with, but I know they had no luck. That leads me to guess they have been talking about you and their plans to make you "talk". I'm not saying that I agree, not at all, I'm just letting you know so you know what to expect.

Anyway, hope to hear from you soon. Remember that Hermione and Ron mean well, they're just a bit thick about some things.

Also, if you're blaming yourself about the DoM, remember my first year. I blamed myself for it for quite a long time. Do you think I deserve to be blamed for the Chamber and the Basilisk attacks? We were both tricked by Tom. If you blame yourself for what happened, then you should blame me for petrifying one of your best friends and almost getting you killed.

While I didn't know Sirius nearly as well as you, I spent some time talking with him when you, Ron, and Hermione were off discussing things. I really liked him, he knew how to tell a great joke and do a good prank, but he was also one of the only people who didn't treat you and me like children who needed sheltering. It's hard to explain, but he was different than everyone else. As in at times, I felt like everyone else had their heads in the sand, but not Sirius. He once told me that the very people who the Order tries to keep in the dark about the war are going to have to fight it and the adults are obligated to make sure that our generation is ready. You knew him better than I did, but I could tell that he knew some of the real, darker truths of the world and… I think no one wanted to let him share those truths with any of us. Mum always wanted to keep him away from us, even though she was good at hiding it… and Dumbledore… I just don't know, but it seems like he wanted to keep him locked away, not just in Grimmauld, but away from you so he couldn't influence you.

Most of all, he was so proud of you, and talked about you all the time. He was a good man whose one dream was to be a great godfather.

Your friend,

Ginny

Ginny's letter was certainly not what Harry was expecting. When did she become so insightful? How was she able to understand Sirius better than any of his friends or even some of the adults were able to? Harry thought back about his past year at Hogwarts and realized that Ginny had really grown up. There was something mature about her letter and Harry couldn't place him finger on it. Perhaps it was the fact that her letter wasn't about getting something, like answers or explanations, or putting him on the spot and demanding anything uncomfortable from him, but it was about simply communicating and sharing her thoughts and memories about someone who Harry loved. She wasn't trying to force thoughts into his mind or extract words from his mouth and Harry wasn't used to that.

Harry felt slightly bad that he had ignored Ginny for so long, especially when he forgot that she was possessed by Voldemort her first year. They both had a connection to Voldemort, but instead of talking to her, he pretended like she didn't exist. She must have been feeling awful after her first year, but he hadn't spared her a second thought. Now he had suffered through an awful ordeal and she was letting him know he was there for her. Harry never knew she got to know Sirius that well, although the reason I never knew that was probably a result of me subconsciously excluding her he thought to himself.

It hadn't felt uncomfortable reading her letter so perhaps he should respond. After all it was common decency to respond to a letter, especially when someone put effort into the letter. He wasn't going to tell her about his plan, but it couldn't hurt to write to her about his thoughts concerning the Ron and Hermione situation and the events of his fifth year, just like she had done.

Harry wasn't sure, but he thought that there was a real maturity in her letter than had not been there in Hermione's or Ron's and he thought that maybe Ginny was a person who could understand. She seemed to understand his rage against a system that demanded things from him, but gave him nothing and kept him in the dark… perhaps she could understand that he had to do something. He had to be careful and not reveal anything crucial, but… it would feel good to get a little bit of his thoughts off of his chest. Then he could wait for some time and check to see if she had told anyone, which would check her loyalty.

Harry began to write her a long letter, but then reconsidered and decided he would simply tell her in person.

Dear Ginny,

Thanks for writing to me, your letter was much more insightful than Ron and Hermione's. I thought that Sirius was the only person that understood me, but I've realized that you have there all along. Thanks for being such a good friend last year. I am angry and disappointed with myself in regards to the occurrences in the Department of Mysteries and the way I led my best friends into a trap, but I understand how it is not my fault. However, you must understand that while it may not have been my fault, I can and must take responsibility for what happened, or it will happen again before my eyes.

I would like to talk to you in person about this… there are some things that I don't know how to convey in a letter. By the time you get this letter, you will probably have heard the news that I have vanished. Don't worry; I will explain everything in person. Come to Sirius's old room at 10 o'clock tomorrow. Don't tell anyone.

Your friend,

Harry

He did blame himself for the Department of Mysteries. He blamed other people too, but the fact of the matter was that he should have been preparing for such encounters ever since Voldemort attacked him in his first year. Sure, he could blame Dumbledore for not telling him that Voldemort would try to kill him constantly, and Harry did, but he also could have been smarter and figured out that training was necessary along time ago. He had to have more foresight than his friends or other fifth years. He should have been concerned with gaining the ability to protect himself and others on the day that he was told that Voldemort hated him and was not vanquished. His friends that night were his responsibility because they had followed him, but he wasn't strong enough to protect them. Ginny and Hermione were right in way when they worried that he was blaming himself, but they also needed to understand that he was right to admit that a significant share of responsibility lay square on his shoulders.

With the letter out of the way, Harry called for Jonny.

"Yes Master?"

"Please call me Harry. Can you show me the list of the members allowed in through floo and through the Fidelius?"

"Right away" Jonny said happily, glad to be of assistance.

Jonny popped back in the room with a list in his hand. "People who have passed away were automatically removed from the list."

Harry looked at the piece of old parchment, seeing three names on the list.

Remus Lupin

Peter Pettigrew

Albus Dumbledore

Harry groaned at the idea of the traitorous rat being allowed in this house. Harry immediately asked Jonny how to remove names. Harry learned that all he had to do was say, "Peter Pettigrew, you are no longer welcome in Potter Manor!" and the name faded off of the page.

Harry looked at Dumbledore's name, feeling anger threaten to over take him. The bumbling, manipulative codger knew all along about Potter Manor. Harry thought while clenching his fists and removing Dumbledore's name from the list. He could have come here and left me here at any time! He could have let Sirius and I live here! I WOULD HAVE AT LEAST BEEN ABLE TO TALK TO MY PARENTS! By this point Harry was in a murderous rage. He stormed around his house and decided to pop into Grimmauld Place. Secrecy was out of his mind; he was going to give Mr. "What is right, and what is easy" a piece of his mind. He can find a new bloody Order location, see how he likes having someone else decide what he can and cannot do! All I wanted… my one dream was to know something about my parents and talk to them… it would have been easy for him to allow me to spend a summer in Potter Manor… perhaps with Sirius taking care of me. How could Dumbledore, who knew what I saw in the Mirror of Erised, keep me in the dark about the fact that my parents had a beautiful home?

Temporarily blinded by a consuming fury, Harry's mind was overwhelmed by the hot blood pumping through his veins, telling him to yell, scream, smash, and cause pain. As his hand enclosed around the Black key, a fragment of a rational thought entered his mind, Dumbledore probably isn't there. You will just give yourself away to the Weasleys, who will end up telling Dumbledore. Harry paused, his emotions wanted to find Dumbledore and practice a few Auror dueling techniques he had read about, but his mind telling him that it would be a better idea to let Dumbledore stew in his failure to keep Harry under surveillance. Sirius would prefer I did this like a true marauder, with finesse instead of letting my anger ruining the situation. Harry began to think about this as one big prank, an ode to Sirius and James. Also, in case things turned sour, Harry could blast Dumbledore and his information-hiding Order out of Grimmauld place quicker than Rita Skeeter could ruin a reputation.

"It's my property now! I can remove him from it now!" Harry said to himself, his mind envisioning the scene. It would feel really, really good to triumph loudly and boldly by angrily booting the Order out of his house, but that was something the old Harry Potter would do. He had time alone at Potter Manor now… he needed to strengthen himself before he entered a conflict.

Harry decided to take his mind off of Dumbledore by practicing Occlumency, something he would have to learn to keep Snape and Dumbledore from finding out too much information. He began to read a book that looked like the one he had sent Hermione. The general gist was what Snape was teaching him to do, but with the exception that the beginner occlumens should begin by organizing his memories like a castle protected by moats, with mundane, unimportant memories forming many buffer zones around his private memories. But that was easier said than done; about an hour after Harry had started to organize his mind, he got a headache.

Harry roamed around the library, stretching his legs when he saw a section in the back titled "Dark Magic". Harry was quite surprised to see a section on that topic, but with this house being very old, it was understandable that they would have collected books of all natures. Harry picked up a book that looked handwritten, called Tome of the Shadows. It was a raggedy old thing, not a flawless Lockhart hardcover.

Since it was handwritten, Harry decided the safe thing to do would be to check it for any traces of magic, just in case it turned out to be similar to Riddle's diary. Harry cast a Revealing Charm, and there seemed to be no change. Harry opened the book to a page in the middle and it was the same, unmoving, nearly illegible cursive. However, when Harry proceeded to open the cover, he saw words etched in blood slowly appear.

This Book is the Property of the Half-Blood Prince

A/N: So… how was the first chapter? Yes, I'm sure it was a bit clichéd, but I do think that the plot becomes pretty original. I hope you can find the time to review and read more chapters. Check out my other story, Rise of the Grey Lord, Part One: Nobility if you liked this one, although I must inform you that RotGL is temporarily on hiatus because I want to finish up Savior. It's not abandoned, I promise. Anyway, review and all that stuff. Until next time.