Harry Potter sat, idly twiddling his thumbs and trying to contain a fourth sigh of boredom. He had been sitting up in his room for…well, longer than he cared to calculate. He also didn't want to think about why he was there, because that would only make him angry, and being angry was bad enough in itself, but being angry and trapped in a small room was even worse.
He pushed the air from his lungs forcefully and sat up on his bed. So what if he sighed? So what if he sounded like a disgruntled toddler on a time out? He wanted to pout and brood and damn anyone who tried to stop him!
How long had he been here now? Weeks! Damn Dumbledore, the meddling old fool!
'And damn me for loving said fool…' Harry admitted to himself.
Harry knew the wizened old man had his best interests at heart. Hell, a lot of the time, Harry knew that if it weren't for Albus Dumbledore, he very well may not be here today, sitting on his bed. At othertimes though, like this one, he just wanted to dislike the man for a few moments. He hated being locked up in a house full of people that didn't like him; especially when he had a godfather who was more than willing to take him in. But it was all for his own safety. Voldemort was out there, waiting. Waiting for a chance to get his scaly hands on the boy who had caused his downfall. He wished he could throw caution to the wind; wished he could march out his front door and scream into the darkness. He wished it would end now so that he could be in peace. So he could sleep without nightmares. So he could walk without jumping at the smallest sound, or pause to peer into the faintest shadows.
But it wouldn't end, and he wouldn't scream, because he knew that giving in to your own desires often lead to someone else's nightmare. At the end of his last term, he had rushed from the safety of Hogwarts' walls and foolishly took with him innocent people – his best friends – without knowing what they were heading into. The obvious danger. The possibility of a trap. The fact that they would most likely be facing wizards with five times the experience they themselves had. And of course, the worried friends and family who would endanger themselves coming to his much needed aid.
He had acted upon impulse, emotion, and the compelling need to preserve the last of his family. Even after all those lessons with Snape and the lectures from Dumbledore, telling him he needed to exercise more self control, he chose not to listen. Looking back now, he had a hard time convincing himself he wouldn't do it all over again, maybe without his friends this time. The image Voldemort had placed in his head still sent icy chills up his spine, making his muscles tense, as if his body were ready to sprint to his godfather's aid once more. He saw it all the time in his nightmares: Sirius writhing on the floor under the power of Tom Riddle's wand…
Harry's teeth were grinding in anger at the mere thought and he forced himself to unclench his jaw.
He had been so stupid that night, so utterly foolish to disregard the words of two very powerful and very wise wizards. It was simply idiotic to think he could save his godfather, even if the vision had been real. All the same, he did not delude himself with false hope of a lesson learned. He'd do it again.
Sirius had almost died that night.
Harry's eyes slid shut with shame and guilt as the scene replayed in his head for the thousandth time.
The stunner shot from Bellatrix's wand and slammed into Sirius's chest. The Boy-Who-Lived swears he heard a hollow thud upon contact. He watched his godfather's shocked and angry features go lax with unconsciousness and he tumbled backwards towards the Veil. Opening his mouth to scream, Harry found no sound reached his ears, though he felt his throat burn. It was too constricted – he couldn't breath.
Sirius was falling…
His eyelids slammed shut and plunged him into darkness. His mind was numb and his body felt siezed, bound by a web of shock.
And then he heard it, the evil cackled of Bellatrix Lestrange. It was shrill and sharp and cut through the web that held him like a knife.
His gaze seared a firey path of anger through the room, searching for the source of his rage. The edges of his vision was a white hot haze, tunneling in to fixate on a figure moving up the staircase across the room.
Distantly, Harry realized he was so overcome with anger his mind and his body seemed to detach into two separate entities, no longer working together towards the same goal. His imagination spun images of him running to his godfather's aid; pulling him back from the veil, but the rest of him had decided it was too late to do what he had come here for, and now, must do the next best thing. He wanted to kill Bellatrix, wanted to rip her limb from limb, to cause her as much pain as she had just caused him. His body kicked into high gear, adrenaline pulsing and pumping in his veins. His heart felt tight and trapped in his chest as it beat relentlessly against his rib cage.
He tore after her. People were screaming around him, mingled pleas and cries of pain that all blurred together into white noise. He pushed it aside and deemed it unimportant. The only thing that mattered was getting a good shot at Lestrange.
As he crested the stairs, he got that shot.
The scream that was torn from the woman's throat was more satisfying than he had imagined. He let it wash over him, garnering a twisted sense of satisfaction that he was causing her this pain. He held the curse a bit longer and then released her. She lay there panting on her back, her hair disheveled and her clothes rumpled from convulsions. When she had collected herself enough, she pushed herself up on her elbows and regarded him with shaky uncertainty. The look was foreign on her face.
Then she sneered. "Not strong enough to hold the spell Baby Potter? Do you feel guilty? Boo-hoo…" her thin lips curled into a smirk Snape would be proud of. "A hero-complex is not very becoming of anyone…let alone a weak little boy…" She looked like she had more to say, and Harry wished he could have held his smile at bay a little longer to hear it. But as the manic grin slowly stretched across his face, uncertainty settled cleanly in her features once more.
Although he supposed he did look a little scary…or more like insane. His hair was a mess, his face was bloody, his robes torn. He shook his head. "No, Bellatrix. I could have held the spell longer, but I want you to feel the pain of a new spell…over and over and over. That won't work if you're insane, now will it?" The woman was squirming now, as if just realizing that the situation was more out of her control than she had originally thought.
Harry raised his wand again and she flinched beneath its steady aim, but the grin slowly spreading across her face reminded him that no amount of torture could further unhinge this woman, her mind had been never been completely whole. What little hope she may have had at a sane existance had been thoroughly obliterated by Voldemort.
"Where is your master now Bella…?"
She did not answer him, only stared.
With a fresh wave of anger, Harry felt his lips pulled back over his teeth and he snarled, "CRUCIO!"
And she screamed. And screamed and screamed…
Startled, Harry jerked his wand up and broke the spell again. Turning slightly, he saw Remus, Dumbledore and Alastor Moody standing at the top of the staircase, looking as weary and bloody as he did.
However, before Harry could respond, he heard the rustling of robes behind him, signaling that Bellatrix had risen to her feet and was attempting to flee. He spun on his heel and took aim with his wand just between the shoulder blades of the retreating body.
A jet of wiry black light shot from the end of his wand and Bellatrix collapsed forward, mid run, and screamed. He ran towards her as she scrabbled to reach the gapping gash between her shoulder blades while it gushed blood over the marble floor where she lay. Footsteps followed him as he neared her.
"Harry! Don't touch her!"
Without looking back, Harry let the anger Remus' statement caused him drive him forward towards the prone figure on the floor. Why shouldn't he touch her? He should beat the life out of her for what she did! For killing Sirius! And Remus should want to do the same!
All of those thoughts fled his mind as he finally reached her and bent to grasp the front of her robes, lifting her upper body off the floor.
Her skinny, blood-soaked hands clawed at his wrists in a futile attempt to pry them off, but her grip was weak and failing.
"Your bark is worse than your bite, Bellatrix." Harry said, his voice as cold and hard as ice. He sneered at her as he heard the footsteps of his teachers draw nearer, slowing down cautiously. He supposed they didn't want to startle him into doing something he may regret.
And with a sudden clarity that made him falter, Harry thought, 'Would I regret it if I killed this woman? If I ended her life?'
He envisioned himself closing his hands about her neck and squeezing until her weak movements ceased completely. The thought was not wholly unappealing, and the desire must have shone in his eyes, for her black ones widened and her struggles found new strength.
"Are you scared Bella?" He asked quietly, but again she remained silent. "Do you long for your master to come and save you?" He gave her a lopsided grin, "Because he won't, you know."
"LIAR!" She screamed. Finally a reaction. "He searches for me this very moment! I am his most loyal follower! He loves me!"
Harry couldn't help his sharp bark of laughter. "You are a fool if you think that monster is capable of loving anyone but himself." The statement was whispered, but it had a decidedly loud impact on the woman still shaking under his hands. Of course, her defiance returned within the second.
"Just wait Potter. He will have your head…"
Harry threw her to the floor, suddenly disgusted by touching her, by being so close to her; something that revered such a cruel and evil animal. He felt dirty. Like her dark magic had leached through the skin of his hands as he held her and polluted him.
"Get out of here Bellatrix." He snapped. "Before I do something I will not regret."
Apparently, she didn't need to be told twice, for, dignity of a Death Eater be damned, she threw herself into the nearest fireplace and was gone in a whirl of green flames.
'A dog is forever loyal to its beloved master, no matter how many times it get's kicked…' Harry thought with no amount of sympathy.
Said boy turned towards the sound of Dumbledore's voice and regarded him with tired eyes. After a moment of silence, in which the old man did not say a word, Harry raised an eyebrow in question. He didn't think he had enough energy to voice it.
Albus seemed to shake himself and blinked.
"Sirius is alive…"
That had been almost a month ago now, and Harry still keenly remembered the complete and undiluted relief that had washed through his body, cleansing it of ill thought and pain. That is until he was smacked in the face with a gauntlet full of self loathing. He had, once again, run off irrationally without thinking and done something stupid. He had chased after a very dangerous witch in a fit of sheer rage. If it was one thing Moody had drilled into his skull it was that you should never attack someone out of anger.
And this is what Harry Potter had been doing for the better part of the summer: Berating himself for his own stupidity and promising whoever was listening that he would not let something like that happen again.
He had been practicing Occlumency every night since that day and when he got back to school, he was shelving his pride and asking for Snape's help once more. He was going to try and convince Remus and Sirius to help him in whatever areas they could. Defense, charms, transfiguration. He knew Sirius had always been particularly skilled at hand to hand combat, a dying, if not dead, practice amongst wizards, as it was regarded as primitive and strictly muggle.
Either way, war was upon them, and Harry was not going into it unprepared. As much as he hated to admit it, a lot of lives lay in his hands, and he was damned if he was going to screw it up because he had the self control of a six year old.
Chapter One: A Surprise
It was the morning of the very first day of August. The morning after his temporary incarceration, orchestrated by the Dursleys of course, had ended. Harry knew he should take advantage of the freedom while he could, as his uncle would undoubtedly come up with some other inane reason to lock him in his room.
After shoving breakfast down his throat, Harry put on his boots and left the house before his uncle woke up. After he had finally fallen asleep the night before, he had been woken up early in the morning by a letter from the very man who was starring in his nightmares. Apparently, Sirius and Remus were coming to visit him. Nerves had made him jittery since the moment his eyes had traced his godfather's name at the bottom of the letter, not that Harry wasn't excited to see his godfather, but sometimes the man could be a bit dense. If the entire Wizarding World was looking for him, the last thing Harry would be doing was going on a day trip to visit his only remaining family, who just so happened to be famous so everybody knew who he was and where he lived, who's house was also under protection and constant surveillance.
At least the two of them, Harry was sure this part had been Remus' idea, had decided to come after dark. Now he had some time to kill before he had to go back to the house to meet them. He didn't really know what to do with himself. For the better part of the summer, Harry had been in the Dursleys' house as little as possible, even going so far as to sleep in the park when the nights were warm enough. He hated sleeping in that house and it's not like he had any friends in this neighborhood. He had met a few people later in the evenings, when all the parents had left the park to take their children home for supper.
This is when the older kids came out. Like Dudley and his gang, most of them were up to no good under the cover of darkness, but some were alright. Some just came to hang out after all their homework was done and they got off work. Harry occasionally socialized with these people and found them nice enough. He didn't know them well enough to ask to sleep on their couch though. He was sure he would have a hard time even asking Ron for that.
He'd also wandered into town a few times in the last month. It hadn't been anything spectacular but he had managed to smuggle into the house a few new clothes from the shops, and Vernon was none the wiser.
As he dropped himself into a swing after reaching the park, Harry thought back to the letter had had received. It had been written quickly and was full of excitement. He could tell that just from reading it. Some of the words had been hard to make out in the haste with which they had been written. His godfather had mentioned something about a surprise, something the Order had been working on for a while but he didn't want to say anything and get his hopes up…it just went on and on like that for a while. To say Harry was intrigued was an understatement. He knew as well as anyone that his curiosity was insatiable.
Noticing that a cool breeze had picked up, Harry reviewed his and Sirius' last few conversations and letters in an attempt to extract some kind of clue as to what the 'surprise' was. But, as with the last three times he had done this, he came up with nothing useful. Casting a glance at the sky, clouds that had been in the west and east in the early morning, were now fusing into one heavy, grey blanket overhead. As the last of the sun's rays were occluded by the ominous haze, Harry decided that he would rather be in the company of his relatives than soaking wet.
He began his march back to the house. About half way there he heard the familiar cry of his owl Hedwig from somewhere behind him. He turned swiftly, startled by her screech, and threw his hands up just in time to catch the letter before it smashed into his face. She swooped off before he could even reprimand her for giving him a letter in the middle of the street, where any muggle could pull back their curtains and see.
Quelling his anger and trepidation, Harry glanced around cautiously and was relieved to see the street was deserted and all the windows were dark.
Well, at least the stupid owl had good timing.
With a deep breath Harry began walking again and opened his letter. Immediately he recognized Hermione's tidy scroll.
Oh my gosh! Has Snuffles told you the news yet? None of us have seen him but Mr. Weasley has just told all of us. It's so exciting! I bet you are so happy! I don't know if he's even told you yet, Mr. Weasley said Snuffles wanted to tell you himself, so I'm not going to give anything away, just in case! Oh, me and Ron are so happy for you, Harry! Ron hasn't been able to wipe that stupid smile off his face since we found out.
Also, Mrs. Weasley wants me to inform you that you are coming over here sometime in the next two weeks so that we can, "celebrate the poor boy's birthday properly…"
Unfortunately I'm only here until tomorrow. Mr. Weasley only brought me over today so that he could tell everybody the big news together. Oh, I wish you had been there! I would love to see your face when you find out!
Oh, well, I'm probably driving you mad by now but…oh just owl me when he tells you!
Ron says hi and we both can't wait to see you.
Lots of Love,
Harry was now positively burning with curiosity. He was elated that this bit of big news was something good, instead of the never ending horrible news he had been receiving last term. What could Sirius have to tell him? Maybe he had convinced Dumbledore to let Harry live with him?
His stomach clenched in longing. That would be the best news he could imagine getting.
'Or perhaps Voldemort has spontaneously dropped dead.' Harry snorted aloud at this. There was no way that would happen, but the thought was fun to entertain.
As he reached the front walk of Number Four Private Drive, he paused and looked at the house carefully. What if tonight was the last night he would be here? What if Sirius did come to take him away? Perhaps he would never have to look at his aunt, uncle or cousin ever again after this day. Elation flooding him with the possibility, Harry turned the door knob and walked into the house. It was silent. Vernon was off at work still and not due home for another hour or so. Dudley was almost never home during the day. He was always off with his friends doing…whatever it was they did in their spare time. 'Probably beating up some poor child.'
And his aunt, well, she was probably in her room upstairs, watching TV with a large glass of wine, as she had become accustom to doing over the summer. As Harry trekked up to his room, he heard the TV blaring in his aunt's room and knew he had been correct in his assumptions.
He veered off into the bathroom to take a shower, figuring by the time he got out and dressed, it would be time for supper and his uncle would be home. It was at this juncture in his thoughts that he realized he had yet to tell his family that Sirius and Remus would be coming over for a visit.
"I can't wait to tell him, Moony! He's going to be so excited...you think he'll be happy right?"
Remus Lupin sighed and shook his head. Turning to his best friend, he leveled a playful glare.
"Sirius Black, if you ask me that one more time I am going to smack you." The werewolf's face softened, "And of course Harry is going to be happy; elated more likely. You know how much he dislikes his relatives."
Sirius' face went from insecure and worried to dark and moody. "I know." He growled low. "I wish this could have been taken care of sooner. Like in his third year." The dark haired man shook his head regretfully, "I was so sure we had Peter trapped. I was so ready to look after him…"
Remus laid a hand on the man's shoulder. "What have I told you about playing the 'What If' game? Hm? It serves no purpose and only makes you upset." He smiled, "In the words of Albus Dumbledore: "'It does not do to dwell on dreams, and forget to live.'"
Sirius looked thoughtful for a moment. "When did he say that? I don't remember…"
"Oh, he didn't say it to us." Remus replied. "He said it to Harry…in his first year. Harry told me about it once. Described it as being his first 'encounter' with the 'batty old codger."
A grin stretching across his face, Sirius nodded, "Yeah, that sounds like something Harry might say…when no one else was around, of course."
Doing up his jacket, Remus ushered his friend out the front door of the house and into the dampness of the evening. He knew his friend was both excited and worried to see his godson. He was excited because he wanted to give Harry the life he never had. He wanted Harry to know how much he was loved. And Sirius felt, for some reason Remus could not understand, guilty for not being there for Harry. Remus may have even gone so far as to believe that his troubled friend felt as if he had betrayed James by not raising his son; as if the twelve years the poor man had spent in Azkaban were completely his own doing, and no matter how many talks, and fights, the two of them had, Remus was never able to convince Sirius otherwise, stubborn fool that he was. Perhaps Harry would be able to drill it through his thick skull.
And as much as Sirius tried to hide it, Remus knew that he was worried, terrified even, that his godson was going to reject him. This frustrated the werewolf to no end. Anyone with half a brain could see that the Boy-Who-Lived was starved for affection. Not that he'd ever admit it. Remus wasn't even sure he was aware of it.
He believed that Sirius and Harry living together would do them both a world of good.
"…this place. Remus…Remus? Are you even listening to me?"
"What? Yes, of course I am."
Sirius regarded his best mate suspiciously. He was about to open his mouth and say something like, 'no, I don't think you were…' when Remus beat him to the chase.
"There it is."
The taller of the two, that being Sirius, looked up, taking in the landscape around him. He hummed, "Oh, yes, I vaguely remember this now…" They were walking up the front steps when they heard yelling from inside the house. It was muffled, but getting louder and clearer as the two doing the yelling came closer to the door.
"…CAN'T BELIEVE…ACCUSE MY…PUT A ROOF OVER YOUR HEAD, YOU UNGRATEFUL LITTLE SHIT!"
"FUCK YOU! I'D HAVE BEEN BETTER OFF IN AN ORPHANAGE THAN IN THIS HELL HOLE!"
Sirius had his hand on the door knob, ready to rush in, when there was the unmistakable sound of flesh hitting flesh, after which the door beneath his hand shuddered violently as someone slammed into it.
"GET OUT OF MY HOUSE, BOY!"
Remus laid a hand on Sirius' shoulder and pulled him back from the door. As expected, it was wrenched open. Harry stood there, with his hand on the knob for support as he pushed bare feet into his boots.
The boy was not facing them directly, and Sirius stared at his godson's profile. The boy had grown a few inches, making him less freakishly short and more approaching average. His hair had grown somewhat tamer and fell down in jagged pieces about his face and ears. His skinny, boyish frame had filled out over the summer to give way to wiry muscles and toned limbs…from all the Quidditch no doubt. But what really caught Sirius' eye was the trail of blood streaming from Harry's mouth and nose.
Before the two men on the front step could even share an incredulous glance at one another, Harry had donned his shoes and proceeded to march out of the house. However, just before the door was slammed, Harry looked up. The raven haired boy cried out in surprise and stumbled backwards, his face becoming alarmingly angry.
"Sirius!" he hissed, "Are you out of your mind? Do you want to get sent back to Azkaban or something?"
Said man could only blink and open and close his mouth a few times. Good thing Remus stepped up.
"Look, Harry, we have something we need to tell you, but…"
Sirius, having found his voice once more, cut his friend off, "But we'll have to tell you after I kill your uncle."
Harry's face softened and he stepped into Sirius' path. "Don't be so foolish, you're not going in there." He paused as Sirius seemed to deflate slightly, then flinched as his godfather raised a hand to touch his cut lip.
"We need to get you cleaned up." He muttered.
Harry sighed and waved his arm in the direction of the park. "We have to move away from the house first," he explained, "Otherwise they will think I did the magic." The two men nodded and the trio set off towards the outskirts of the subdivision, Harry leading the way.