Disclaimer: Once again, I feel the need to tell you all that I do not own Harry Potter. That happy honour belongs to JK Rowling, Bloomsbury Books, Warners Bros and the Tooth Fairy. However, I own a lovely Fountain Pen. Honestly. It's really pretty.
This story will be Harry/Harem. "Why?" you ask? Well, basically, 'cause we can. However, both myself and my beta (MagnaMorbius. All hail MagnaMorbius!) are uttely crap at writing sex scenes. We've tried, and they read like a Haynes manual. Theoretically possible, but dull as dirt. So, we write smutty bits with no graphic sex. Still, there's enough innuendo in here for you.
– CHAPTER ONE –
Accusations and Conversations
"Harry... don't you understand?" Hermione asked, the rest of the 'Ministry Crew' standing behind her. "I'm afraid." She gestured to the others. "We're all afraid. We went you with to the Department of Mysteries, and what happened to us?"
Neville took a step forward, and cleared his throat. "All of us were injured, Harry. I understand that you were afraid for your Godfather, but was it really worth it? Because of your actions, he's dead."
Luna stared at him intently. "Harry," she said, her voice soft, yet determined. "I felt like I had to go with you... I don't trust you anymore, Harry. Your actions weren't logical. And a man died, and your closest friends were hurt."
Ginny looked up, the very vision of an enraged red-head. "We could have died, Harry. Because of your stupidity, we were all hurt. I liked Sirius... I can't really forgive you for his death."
Ron spoke last, a sneer on his face. "Harry, you were arrogant and foolish. We don't want anything more to do with you. As of now, you're on your own."
On your own... on your own... on your own... Those words reverberated through Harry's mind. It had only been a few days since he had parted with his 'friends', and Harry already felt a wave of depression and agony fill him. Remus had reacted in a similar fashion when Harry had last seen him.
Remus looked at Harry, an indescribable look of sadness on his face. Harry looked at him, his own sadness evident. Remus roared, and leapt to his feet.
"It's your fault!" He cried out. "Because of you, the last of my pack is dead!" Remus reared back, and punched Harry. "I never want to see you again! James and Lily will never forgive you!" Remus stormed from the room, leaving Harry gasping and wheezing on the floor.
It's your fault... On your own... Harry sat up from his bed, despair tearing into his thoughts.
"Fine." He mumbled aloud. His voice was scratchy and rough, having not been used for days. He staggered to his feet, and ambled over to his trunk. He carefully packed all of his belongings inside, save for a small backpack, in which he placed his photo album, Firebolt, which had been returned at the end of the term, and his father's invisibility cloak. He kept his wand in his pocket, and locked the trunk.
Not caring about the Underage decrees, he shrunk his trunk, and placed it into his shirt pocket. Taking a last look around the smallest bedroom of Number 4 Privet Drive, he moved to the door.
Vernon looked up from his newspaper, hearing his hated nephew stomping down the stairs. He rolled his eyes, and delved back into his newspaper. Hopefully the little brat would go out and let them have some piece for a while.
Harry entered the kitchen, and cleared his throat.
Vernon looked up and scowled. "What do you want now, boy?"
Harry gazed on, a dead look in his eyes. "I have come to take my leave of you, Uncle." He replied. "I will not be returning." Vernon's eyes lit up with glee.
"About bloody time." He said happily.
"There is something else I need to say." Harry said formally. "This property has never been my home. I renounce all claims of blood kin within these walls."
Petunia came in, hearing the last few words Harry had spoken. "What's going on here?" She demanded haughtily.
"Freak's announcing he's leaving, Pet." Vernon replied happily. "Just telling us that he never considered this place home." He snorted. "It's fine by me, really."
Eyes lighting up with alarm, she looked at Harry. "What are you doing?"
Harry replied, his tone flat and mechanical. "I explained to Uncle Vernon that this property has never been my home. I renounce all claims of blood kin within these walls."
"No!" Petunia cried out. "Do you know what you're doing?" Vernon looked up at her alarm.
"Yes." Harry replied. "I need to speak to Dudley, then I will be gone." Harry turned, and left the kitchen. Petunia quickly turned to Vernon. "No, we can't let him!"
Vernon stood up, not understanding why Petunia was so upset. "Relax, Petunia. I thought we would be glad when he's gone?"
"He's taking away the protection!" Petunia replied, nearly hysterical. "Don't you remember what that letter said? 'As long as Harry can call this place home, where his mother's blood resides, no one will be able to harm you'. By saying that to Dudley, he'll take it away!" Seeing Vernon's blank look enraged her. "The freaks will be able to attack us!"
Vernon quickly grasped the situation, and rushed out into the hall, only to see Harry calmly coming down the stairs.
"I'm done here." Harry replied. "We will not see each other again." He stopped by the front door. "Enjoy the rest of your lives." With that parting shot, Harry opened the door, and was gone.
Outside Privet Drive, the wards began to fade. Due to the inherent power contained within them, it would take some time for them to be destroyed, but Harry's actions had now made the process irreversible.
Harry stood on the pavement, and held out his wand. The Knight Bus appeared with a loud 'crack' that nobody heard, and a flash of light that nobody saw. Harry calmly marched onto the bus, paid Stan with the amount, and headed for Diagon Alley.
Passing through the portal at the back of the Leaky Cauldron, Harry ignored the stares and whispers that followed him. People had finally decided that since Voldemort was truly back, he had been telling the truth for the last year. One of the articles he had seen that made him laugh was where the Prophet had called him 'the lone voice of truth, forced to put up with slander, persecution and ridicule'. Of course, it had failed to mention that it was the Prophet that had done the slandering, persecuting and ridiculing.
Harry saw the Weasley twins standing outside their shop, seemingly looking for him. He walked past, ignoring their pleas.
He entered Gringotts, and calmly waited in line for the next free teller. When he became available, Harry stared up.
"What?" The goblin asked briskly.
"I would like a way to access my funds without appearing in your branch." Harry droned. "I want to be able to access Muggle funds. Do you offer a debit card facility with your accounts? One that will work overseas?"
"Name?" The goblin asked.
"Harry Potter. Vault 687." Harry replied.
The goblin nodded. "Your account qualifies, Mr. Potter." The goblin replied, far more friendly now that he knew he was dealing with a rich wizard. "We can have a card prepared for you in a few moments." The goblin looked around, and leaned over the desk. "There is also another matter that we need to speak to you about, Mr. Potter. Do you have a few moments available now?"
Harry shrugged, then nodded. The goblin slammed a 'Closed' sign on his desk, then stood up. The queue of people behind Harry groaned, then headed over to the next queue. The goblin gestured for Harry to follow him. He looked around for a moment, then followed.
"Now, Mr. Potter." The goblin sat down at a desk in a vacant office. "We have recently sent out letters notifying people of the Will reading of Mr. Sirius Black. You were named as one of the beneficiaries of the Will. However, from your questions in the lobby, I am assuming that you are planning on leaving the country soon?" The goblin asked.
"Yes." Harry replied. "I have a couple of errands to run, then I'm gone." He said softly. "There's nothing left for me here anymore."
"I am sorry to hear that, Mr. Potter." The goblin replied dutifully. "Do you know where you are going to be on July 12th?"
"No." Harry answered. "I have no definite plans at this time."
"Hmm." The goblin thought for a moment. "Are you familiar with Portkeys, Mr. Potter?" Seeing Harry nod, he carried on. "We will be able to supply you with a Portkey that will bring you here at the appropriate time on July 12th. At the end of the Will reading, it will return you to your previous co-ordinates."
"That's very helpful." Harry said calmly. "Thank you."
The goblin nodded once, and stood. He extended a hand, with a plain black plastic card.
"One other thing." Harry called after the goblin. "I expect that any transactions that I carry out will be protected under your usual impeccable confidentiality?"
The goblin turned, and looked offended. "Of course, Mr. Potter."
Harry nodded once, stood, and headed to the door.
Harry's 'errands' were to a Magical Home store, to purchase and outfit a wizard's tent, a travel agency, so he could pick up a Portkey to another country, and a quick stop at the Leaky Cauldron to pick up several cases of Butterbeer. He carefully packed the two items into his now-full backpack. His plans would not allow him to resize the items once shrunk, so he had to pack like a Muggle, and carry them normally.
He passed back through the Cauldron, ignoring the people calling to him, and headed outside. He raised his wand again, calling for the Knight Bus. He was aware that this would be the last time he would take this... unique form of transport, and relished the ride.
Unfortunately for Harry, it was over far too quickly, depositing him on his arse in Hogsmeade. He calmly walked down the High Street, again ignoring people calling out to him, some to offer support, and others to offer apologies for not believing him over the last ten months.
He approached the gates of Hogwarts, and took a deep breath. He passed through the portal, and felt the pull of the castle in front of him. The magic in the air was palpable, and it sang to his very soul. He ignored it, and approached the doors.
He banged on them three times, then waited. As expected, Argus Filch opened the door, and cast a hateful gaze at Harry. "What do you want? Isn't it bad enough that you make a mess of my castle during the term? Can't you let me have my summer in peace?"
"Shut up." Harry said in a dead tone. "Where is Dumbledore?"
Filch was taken back by the boy, and gestured to the doors to the Great Hall. "He's having lunch."
Harry pushed past the old man, and walked into the Great Hall. The few remaining Professors, Dumbledore, Flitwick, McGonagall and Snape, were sitting having lunch up at the staff table.
Dumbledore saw Harry Potter entering the Great Hall, and felt a moment of panic. "Harry, is everything okay? Is there a problem at home?"
Harry looked up with his dead eyes, an action that scared the powerful old wizard. "Nothing is wrong. I just came to drop something off before I go.
"'Go', Harry? Where are you going?" McGonagall asked.
"Away." Harry replied, reaching into his shirt pocket. He pulled out the trunk, and threw it onto the floor at the foot of the staff table. "This contains all of my books, supplies and equipment. You can use it to give poor students some assistance."
Dumbledore was shocked and appalled. "Harry-"
"It also contains my robes and other school clothing. I'm sure you'll be able to find a use for them." Harry snorted. "Hell, auction them off for all I care. I'm sure the school budget would appreciate the help."
Snape sneered. "Arrogant, Potter, just like your father! You think that by going away people will flock to you?"
Harry turned his head smoothly, fixing the Potions Master in a glare that made even the experienced spy cold. "No, Snivellus. I plan to go away, and hope the world forgets all about me. I don't want any fame. I never did. Your opinion matters to me so little I can't even describe it."
"Do you expect us to believe that you're giving up your magic education, Potter?" Snape asked, his sneer even more pronounced.
"No." Harry replied simply, pulling his wand from his pocket. Under the horrified gazes of three Professors, he snapped the wand, and threw the pieces onto the floor. "I'm giving up my magic. I don't want it. Any of it."
"Harry... what has happened?" Dumbledore asked, barely able to get the words out.
"Everything, Headmaster. I've had enough of the Wizarding world. So, I'm leaving it. I don't want anyone to come and look for me. I just want to be forgotten."
"You can't leave, Harry." Dumbledore said firmly. "Do you not remember what was said in my office less than a fortnight ago?"
"Yes, I remember." Harry said. "But I no longer care. I'm gone." Harry turned, and started to walk away.
"What about your friends, Harry?" Dumbledore's mind was racing. Harry couldn't leave! Without him, Voldemort would be unstoppable.
Harry stopped, and slowly turned. He was about to say something, then stopped himself. He turned back, and walked out of the hall.
Dumbledore turned to McGonagall. "This is not good, Minerva."
Snape rolled his eyes. "This is just another attention seeking ploy from the brat, Headmaster." Couldn't anyone see that? "He'll be back in a few days, begging us to forgive him. I, for one, am not going to let this ruin my summer." He picked up his fork, and carried on with his lunch.
Harry reached the edge of the wards, and raised his watch. The travel agent had managed to turn his watch into a Portkey to another country, where Harry would be able to start his new life. He was about to press the button, when he turned back, and stared at the castle for a moment. Engraving as much of it into his memory as he could, he jabbed the button, vanishing from Hogsmeade.
A week passed, and nobody had heard from Harry. Dumbledore had called the Order together into the kitchen at Grimmauld Place.
He stood at the head of the table, waiting for everyone to settle down.
The Elder Weasleys were starting to look worried. Dumbledore had not felt the need to call the whole Order for several months, and each time that he did, it was never good.
"I will, what was that Muggle phrase? 'Cut to the chase', that was it. I will 'cut straight to the chase' this evening." Dumbledore began. "Has anyone heard from Harry Potter recently?"
The room as one answered with various 'no' answers. Dumbledore frowned. "This time last week, Harry came to Hogwarts. He told us that he has had enough, and was giving up his magic."
Snape sneered. "I told you, Headmaster, this is just another attention seeking ploy from the little bastard. I don't even know why we're bothering with this."
Several people scowled at Snape. Moody stood up, and walked out of the door, causing several people to mutter. Dumbledore looked shocked that someone had just walked out from a meeting he was holding before they were dismissed. He shook his head, resolving to talk to Alastor about this.
McGonagall looked at Lupin. "Remus, have you spoken to Harry recently?"
Lupin looked up, his eyes flashing amber. "I had words with him at the end of term, Minerva." He replied coolly.
"And how did he seem?" McGonagall replayed Lupin's words in her mind. "What 'words' did you have with him, exactly?"
Remus looked sad. "We talked about Sirius' death. He seemed... depressed and sad. What you'd expect from a boy who's just lost his Godfather." Remus deliberately skirted the issue of the precise words he had used. In hindsight, he knew that he had been harsh with Harry, but the wounds were still too raw, too painful.
Moody apparated to the edge of the wards at Privet Drive, and whistled. His magical eye showed him the state of the wards, and he saw that they were extremely weak. They wouldn't keep a determined kneazle out, let alone the Dark Lord or his Death Eaters.
Throwing caution to the wind, he went up to Number 4, and rang the bell.
A few moments later, a woman with an excess of neck answered, hastily concealing her scream, before she pulled Moody inside, before the neighbours saw.
"What do you want?" She demanded.
"Where's Potter?" Moody asked, ignoring something as ordinary as manners.
The giraffe sniffed, then stared at Moody petulantly. "He left. Told us all that this was not his home, and he renounced any blood kin."
Moody sucked in a breath, and nodded. Without bothering to leave the house, he apparated away, before rematerialising in the park across from Grimmauld Place. Wasting no time, he quickly let himself back into the house.
Dumbledore sighed, before rubbing the bridge of his nose. The members of the Order were suggesting places Harry would have gone to hide, and they were getting more ridiculous at they progressed.
Moody stomped into the kitchen, halting the conversation immediately.
"Ah, Alastor." Dumbledore looked up. "I was wondering where you went in the middle of a meeting."
"Privet Drive." The old Auror replied gruffly. "Thought I'd go straight to the horse's mouth."
"And?" Snape sneered. "Was the brat there?
"No." Moody replied. "And the Blood Wards are almost gone, too." Exclamations of disbelief followed this statement. Moody cleared his throat before carrying on. "I don't mean that they're getting weaker. I do mean literally almost gone. Give it a day, they'll have dissipated."
"How is this possible?" Molly asked, looking at Dumbledore. "I thought that they were extremely powerful, Albus."
"They are." Moody answered for Dumbledore. "However, they rely on the person being protected calling that place home. Before he left, Potter told his relatives that Number 4 was not his home, and he renounced his Blood Kin."
"That'd do it." Dumbledore mumbled to himself. "I'd like to believe that Harry did not know that saying those things has destroyed the wards."
"He probably knew." Snape scowled as he spat the words out. "He's probably sat in the Leaky Cauldron having a good laugh, waiting for us to come for him on bended knee. Well, I won't."
Dumbledore started to rub his temples, valiantly trying to fight off the headache that was struggling for dominance. "We will need to begin a search for Mr. Potter straight away." Dumbledore said quietly. "Remus, will you arrange for teams to go to all the obvious locations? We can then start looking-"
"No." Remus interrupted. "I am not the best person to arrange a search for Harry, Albus." He stood. "I... I need to be alone for a while. Please excuse me." He strode out of the kitchen, before retreating to his bedroom.
The rest of the Order stared in silence for a moment, before turning back to Dumbledore. "Very well. Arthur, will you please begin searching for Harry? Molly, would you ask your children when they last spoke to, or received a letter from, Mr. Potter?" Molly nodded.
"Very well. As soon as somebody hears something, please pass the information on to the rest of the Order. Dismissed."
Molly entered the Burrow, and sought out her youngest two children. She found them engaged in a furious chess battle, ignoring everything.
She cleared her throat. "Children, have any of you heard from Harry recently?"
Ginny looked up, her expression carefully marshalled into neutrality. "No, Mum. Why?"
Molly sighed, looking at Ron, who shook his head before returning back to his game. "He's gone missing. We were hoping that you'd heard from him."
"Sorry." Ron said quietly, not looking up from the chessboard, where one of his pawns was violently attacking Ginny's bishop.
Molly shook her head, and walked away.
Ginny and Ron looked at each other, shrugged, and went back to their game.
Hermione opened the letter she had just received, and read the contents quickly. She scowled for a moment, then picked up a quill, and penned a brief reply. She attached the letter to the owl's leg, then thought no more about it.
Neville heard his grandmother calling, and came in from his greenhouse, swearing to himself. He had been in the middle of some very delicate re-potting, and had been called away at the most inappropriate time.
He entered the living room, to find his grandmother pointing at the fire, where the head of Headmaster Dumbledore was floating.
"Ah, Mr. Longbottom." Dumbledore's soft voice was filled with power and confidence. "I need to ask you; when was the last time you spoke to Mr. Potter?"
Neville didn't bat an eyelid. "Harry? I spoke to him on the last day of term, Professor."
"You haven't heard from him since? You haven't received a letter from him?"
"No, Professor." Neville replied. "Is there a problem?"
"Young Harry has gone missing, Mr. Longbottom. None of his friends has heard from him." Dumbledore said, looking concerned and haggard in one move.
Neville shrugged. "I can't help you, sir. I'm sorry."
"If you hear from him, please contact me at once." Dumbledore ordered.
"Of course, sir." Neville said. "If I hear from Harry, I'll floo you immediately."
"Thank you, Mr. Longbottom." Dumbledore's head faded from the fire, leaving an unconcerned Neville to go back to his plants.
Luna was sat in her father's office, reading the new issue of the Quibbler. When the owl arrived with Dumbledore's message, she took it from the owl, read it, and threw it into the fire. Her health was slowly improving after the fight at the ministry, but she had no desire to rehash those events.
Dumbledore was sitting in the kitchen of Grimmauld Place, waiting for the rest of the Order to return. He had received Miss Granger's reply, and had spoken to Mr. Longbottom. Molly had spoken to her children, and he was now waiting for their reply.
Soon enough, the Order had gathered, complete with a scowling Lupin and a sneering Snape. He quickly called the meeting to order, and waited for the reports.
"Well, Molly?" He asked.
Molly looked worried. "I've spoken to both Ron and Ginny. Neither of them have heard from him since the last day of term. No letters or floo calls."
Dumbledore held up Hermione's response. "Miss Granger reports that she had heard nothing from Harry since the last day of term as well. I've taken the liberty of speaking to Mr. Longbottom, and he told me the same thing."
Arthur thought for a moment. "It seems strange that everyone spoke to him on the last day of term... but no-one's actually told us what was said." Arthur turned to Lupin. "Remus, what was your conversation about? You didn't really clarify what you said."
Lupin looked uncomfortable. "We... we discussed Harry's recent actions, and the consequences of those actions."
Minerva looked up sharply. "You... oh, Remus, you didn't!"
Remus looked down at his hands, saying nothing.
"What?" Tonks looked at McGonagall, then at Lupin. "What did you say, Remy?"
"I..." Lupin didn't look up. "I may have said that because of Harry's actions, Sirius is dead."
"You blamed him?" Dumbledore asked. He quickly looked at Molly. "How did Ronald and Ginevra seem when you asked them?"
Molly looked up. "Unconcerned... Almost like they didn't care."
Dumbledore held up Hermione's response. "Miss Granger's response was... not what I would expect. She said, and I quote; 'I haven't heard from Harry. If he contacts me, I'll let you know.' Nothing else. No concern over his health or well-being. Based on previous experience, I'd expect her to be screaming at me to find him."
"You don't think..." Molly glared at Lupin. "Do you believe that they also blame Harry for Sirius' death?"
Dumbledore took off his glasses, and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "We must not forget that all of them were injured during the fight at the Ministry. Is it... is it possible that they have decided to cut off communication with Mr. Potter?"
Lupin looked at his hands. "Wouldn't blame them if they did." He mumbled under his breath.
Dumbledore ignored Moony's whispers, and addressed the Order as a whole. "Please bring Harry's friends here at once. We will need to speak to them immediately."
"Headmaster," Snape's silky voice filled the void. "I do not understand the urgency of locating the brat. If he's truly left, it will free up our resources, allowing us a greater advantage in containing the Dark Lord's forces."
Dumbledore sighed. He really didn't want to go into this. "We need Harry Potter, Severus. You know of the prophecy. Harry is the one mentioned in the prophecy."
Snape looked taken aback for a moment, before his mask slipped back into place. "You're joking!"
"No." Dumbledore looked at the rest of the Order. "I did not want to reveal this. Two additional pieces of information. The prophecy we have been protecting during the last year? It relates to Harry and Voldemort. Harry is the only person who can defeat him. Without him, we are lost."
Dumbledore gave the group a few moments to take in that nugget of knowledge, before dropping the bigger bombshell. "When Harry came to Hogwarts, he announced that he was giving up his magic."
Snape rolled his eyes. "It was a ploy, I'm telling you! Do you really expect us to believe that he snapped his own wand?"
Molly gasped. "He snapped his wand?"
"Yes, Molly." Dumbledore replied tiredly. "And it was his wand. I checked the remains. Inside was one of Fawkes' tail feathers. Only two wands have that core."
"What's the other?" Bill asked curiously.
"Voldemort's wand contains the other feather." Dumbledore sighed. "That is another weapon that we have lost."
"I don't understand." Tonks said.
"Because they were brother wands, they could not, or rather, would not work against each other. Voldemort's brother wand would have locked, allowing others to gain an advantage."
"And Potter took that away from us." Snape sneered. "His arrogance will be our undoing!"
"Shut up!" Tonks shouted. "It's attitudes like that which would drive him away! Have you considered that you're partly to blame?"
Snape sneered, but didn't answer.
Molly stood. "I'll go and get Ron and Ginny."
"I'll go and get Hermione." Bill offered. "I'll use the emergency Portkey to bring her here."
"I'll get Mr. Longbottom to come by Floo." McGonagall offered.
Moody sighed. "I'll get Lovegood."
Dumbledore nodded. "Very good. I'll see you all back here in twenty minutes."
Five Members of the 'Ministry Six' had been unceremoniously gathered into the kitchen of Grimmauld Place.
"Thank you for coming on short notice." Dumbledore began. "We are here today to discuss Harry Potter."
"Don't know where he is, sir." Ron said dutifully.
"Haven't seen him since end of term." Ginny added.
"I am aware of this." Dumbledore said. "However, I have seen Mr. Potter since the last day of term. He came to Hogwarts a few days later. While he was there, he told me that he was leaving, and giving up his magic. He then snapped his wand, and left. Nobody has seen him since."
Hermione shrugged. "There you go, then." She gestured to the other children. "Why are we here, sir?"
"You are here, Miss Granger, because nobody understands why Mr. Potter has decided to leave the Wizarding world. Especially at this critical time."
"He's probably just doing this for the attention." Ron snapped. "Since the newspapers are now calling him the Golden Boy again, he's just trying to get more of a swelled head."
Hermione sniffed. "At the end of term, we told him that we don't want anything more to do with him."
"What!?" Dumbledore demanded. "You... you..." He stopped for a moment.
"We," Hermione gestured to her friends, "decided that we're going to stay away from him. He's reckless. He almost got us killed at the Ministry, and directly because of his actions, Sirius died. We're better off without him in our lives. We'll live longer."
Snape chuckled mirthlessly. "You stupid child. Directly because of your actions, none of us will live long lives. In fact, we'll probably be dead by Christmas." He sneered at her. "Congratulations. The six of you have destroyed the world."
"What?" Hermione asked, looking stupidly confused. Dumbledore was still rubbing his temples. "What?"
McGonagall looked up. "Do you know the prophecy?" She asked softly.
"No. It was destroyed before anyone could hear it." Neville said.
"It was made to me." Dumbledore spoke up. "It was made by Sybil Trelawney just before Harry was born. I won't tell you the entire thing, but the gist of it was that only Harry could defeat Voldemort. No-one else can. I duelled with him in the Ministry, but the best that I can hope for is a stalemate."
"What?" Hermione asked. "So... why don't you go and find Harry, and get him to come back?"
"Because he doesn't care anymore." McGonagall stated firmly. "He snapped his wand. He has no intention of returning." She glared at them. "I don't blame him. If his closest friends can turn on him..."
"Oh, come on!" Ron shouted. "He's nothing special! If anyone defeats You-Know-Who, it'll be Professor Dumbledore! Not 'I-can't-control-myself' Potter!"
"Were you not listening, Mr. Weasley?" Dumbledore asked. "I cannot defeat Voldemort. No-one in this room can defeat Voldemort. Only Harry."
"I'm sorry." Hermione said. "But what does that have to do with us? Like I said, we don't want anything to do with Harry. There's too much chance of us being killed."
McGonagall leapt to her feet. "And driving him away? All you've done is kill the rest of us!"
Luna stood. "I don't believe that. There's always hope. But hope is not spelt 'H-A-R-R-Y'. Somebody else will defeat him."
Dumbledore glanced at McGonagall, his eyebrow raised in a 'they're-really-not-listening' way. "No. We need Mr. Potter back. Since you are his friends-"
"Were his friends." Hermione interrupted. "Not anymore."
Ginny cleared her throat. "Sir... Harry may not like us anymore, but he wouldn't just abandon the Wizarding world to Voldemort."
"And how did you deduce that?" Moody asked gruffly.
"Well... that's who he is." Ginny replied timidly. "He'll save us because it's the right thing for him to do."
"No." Snape added. "He won't. He would not fight for me. He would not fight for Professor McGonagall. He wouldn't even fight for the Headmaster. He would fight for his friends, and for his dogfather."
"There you go, then." Ron said.
"He doesn't have any reasons left, you foolish child!" Snape roared, causing several people to jump. "You took away the only thing he has to fight for!"
"He took them away himself!" Lupin shouted. "Because of him, Sirius is dead! And because of him, his friends were injured! They could have died! All because he wouldn't learn!"
Dumbledore tapped the table, bringing the meeting back to order. "Harry could not learn Occlumency, since the visions from Voldemort were specifically aimed at damaging his mental arts abilities. He interfered with his lessons." He stared at Lupin, causing the younger man to squirm in his seat. "I don't recall hearing that Harry forced anyone to go with him. In fact, from his memories, he specifically told you that he didn't want you to go with him, as he was afraid that would get hurt."
"We thought Sirius was in danger." Hermione defended herself. "We thought we'd make sure."
"So... you went of your own free will. And yet, you blame Harry." Dumbledore mused, pressing his finger together. "I wonder why..."
Hermione stood abruptly. "I will not be involved in any further discussion, Headmaster. We have made our feelings on the matter clear, and have made our decisions. Good day." She turned and headed for the door, followed by the rest of the Ministry crew.
Dumbledore waited for a few moments, then slumped into his seat. "Yes." He whispered. "You have. And it will cost us... everything."